Regions to benefit from prescription changes: Doctors

A Pentagon report has criticised White House Medical Unit practices during the Trump administration.

A Pentagon report has criticised White House Medical Unit practices during the Trump administration. Photo: AAP

Patients from regional areas will stand to benefit from prescription medicine changes, doctors say, despite warnings rural pharmacies will be at risk under the proposal.

Changes from September 1 will allow patients to get 60 days worth of medication dispensed for a single prescription, rather than 30.

The coalition on Thursday launched an unsuccessful bid to overturn the measures in parliament, arguing regional pharmacies would face financial pressure when the changes take effect.

But Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Megan Belot said the change would be a win for rural patients, with fewer visits to the doctor and pharmacy needed.

“There are hundreds of thousands of rural Australians who drive more than 100 kilometres to see a GP or go to the chemist,” Dr Belot said.

“Reducing this burden will save them exponentially more money, in addition to the reduced dispensing fees.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said while the coalition supported the idea of 60-day prescriptions, the government should fund the changes in order to protect regional pharmacies.

“(Pharmacies) are the ones who are picking up the bill for it, it should be the government,” he told Nine’s Today program on Friday.

“At the moment, the way the government structured it, the pharmacists are going to have to pick up that and I don’t think patients want that.”

The opposition has flagged a fresh attempt to overturn the measures when parliament resumes next month.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles accused the opposition of standing in the way of cost of living relief measures.

“This is about making medicines cheaper,” he said.

“What you just heard from Peter (Dutton) is where he always stands when it comes to cost of living issues, and that is against the Australian consumer.”

Health Minister Mark Butler on Thursday said the estimated $1.2 billion saved in the next four years through the cheaper medicines policy would be reinvested back to community pharmacies.

He said the increase in prescriptions had boosted confidence in the sector, despite concern from the Pharmacy Guild, which has been vocal in opposition to the move.

Pharmacies argue the policy will provide too big a hit to their bottom line as they lose out on dispensing fees and extra revenue.

“In the three months since I’ve announced this measure, there have been twice as many applications for new pharmacies to be opened,” Mr Butler said.

It is estimated the prescription changes will halve the cost of 320 common medicines for about six million Australians.


Topics: Medicine
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