12 April 2023

GP poll results tell the story: Patient wellbeing must come ahead of pharmacy owner profits

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has doubled down on calls to make medicines cheaper and easier to access.

It comes following a poll of more than 1,000 GPs who answered the question: “Do you think your patients would benefit from doubling dispensing times to 60 days?”. A staggering 85% said “yes” whilst just 9% answered “no” with 4% “unsure”. The RACGP has been calling on the Government to extend the length of prescriptions and allow a larger supply of medicines in one go to save patients money and time.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said that it was time for the Government to act.

“Enough is enough, patient wellbeing must come first ahead of pharmacy owner profits,” she said.

“We know what needs to be done. Five years ago, the Pharmacy Benefits Advisory Committee, or PBAC, recommended increasing the maximum dispensed quantities of more than 140 common medications from one to two months’ supply. The former Government backed away and in 2021-22 pharmacy dispensing cost taxpayers $1.67 billion. This figure would be significantly reduced if the Government acted on the PBAC recommendation.

“It’s time for the Government to act decisively so that patients everywhere can save valuable dollars on their scripts. People across Australia are having to make impossible decisions like whether to fill up their car or buy fruit and vegetables and so there has never been a more important time to make these changes.”

Dr Higgins said that the Government needed to stand firm against powerful vested interests.

“The Pharmacy Guild won’t like it; they have been campaigning aggressively against these changes for years in order to protect their bottom line,” she said.

“When former Health Minister Greg Hunt toyed with instituting these changes he was ruthlessly targeted by the Guild. They donated a quarter of a million dollars to political adversaries to try and get him booted from Parliament in 2019. They no doubt are ready to do the same again – it’s what they do. So, I understand why Health Minister Mark Butler will be hesitant to take on this lobbying leviathan, but I urge him to stand up to the Guild and do what’s right for the Australian people.

“More and more people across Australia are becoming aware of the power of a handful of influential lobbying groups who are ready and willing to exploit Australia’s lax campaign finance system to get what they want. Australia’s leaders should be acting in the interests of the public good rather than satisfying the demands of the few with offices on Barton Avenue in our nation’s capital.”

The upcoming federal Budget is an opportunity for the Government to reduce cost of living pressures by:

·    extending the length of prescriptions to save patients money and time

·    allowing a larger supply of medicines in one go – a 2-month supply would significantly reduce dispensing fees, which cost taxpayers $1.67 billion in 2021-22

·    investigating the benefits of removing the $1 discount rule, which caps discounts on medicines

·    overhauling Australia’s anti-competitive pharmacy ownership and location laws which inflate costs for patients

·    making prescribing faster and easier for GPs so they have more time for patient care by streamlining the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) prescribing system, which is unnecessarily complex.


RACGP spokespeople are available for comment.

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