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The feature articles below are "opinion" pieces and reflect the views of the individual authors. They are not the views of P/L, its directors or editorial group unless explicitly stated to be so.


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New pain resources from PSA :: PSA National President Grant Kardachi : 15/7/2014 : The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has recently focused a great deal of effort on developing resources to help pharmacists manage patients taking medicines for pain, including codeine based products.

While this work has been ongoing, it was given impetus - from a report in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice - which highlighted that codeine misusers “purchased OTC codeine with virtually no pharmacist interaction, or, the sale was refused with limited discussion”.   More... premium

Pharmaceuticals, Pharmacists and Profits :: Stephen G. Greenwood : 8/7/2014 : It is because the Australia wide pharmacy network is such a vital part of Australia’s primary health care system and because it is the only network which can deliver medications to people in a timely way, together with face to face professional advice, that politicians shrink from deregulating the sector.

Yesterday AusPharm suggested that its readers examine two important editorial pieces published separately by Australian Prescriber on the subject of Pharmaceuticals, Pharmacists and Profits. The two articles were written by the Executive Director of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, David Quilty (here), and by health economist Professor Phillip Clarke from the University of Melbourne (here).   More... premium

Who else but pharmacists? :: John Bronger : 1/7/2014 : The issue of community pharmacy ownership hung on the decision of former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett back at the turn of the century when the Wilkinson Inquiry was considering competition policy in community pharmacy.

It may well be that Victoria again becomes crucial to the aspirations of community pharmacy following that state government’s inquiry into how community pharmacies can be better utilised in primary and preventative care. The results of the inquiry which closes today could have a profound effect on pharmacy’s future efforts for greater recognition and extended roles in a new political order where the states have greater responsibilities in the delivery of healthcare services.   More... premium

NatRUM audit findings alarm :: PSA National President Grant Kardachi : 24/6/2014 : An alarming statistic has emerged from an audit of the National Return and Disposal of Unwanted Medicines (NatRUM) project, a statistic which indicates we pharmacists may be letting our standards slip in some very important areas of patient safety.

The audit, released in March of this year, shows that in 3.6% of the medicines collected under NatRUM, a labelling error was found.  What this means is that there was a mismatch between the label and the contents in the package, bottle or container.

This is unacceptable and should not be happening. Any such errors should be picked up before the medicines leave the pharmacy, either during the dispensing process or during the patient counselling.   More... premium

Will increasing the pharmacist award rate improve pharmacist employment prospects? :: Justin Lee : 17/6/2014 : It is widely accepted that there is an oversupply of pharmacists in the profession. This is thought to have resulted in a decline in pharmacist wages towards the award rate. One suggestion to place pressure on the discounting model which is thought to be a cause of this downward movement of wages is to increase the award rate.

Let us consider the impact of this proposal on pharmacist employment prospects using basic economic methods.   More... premium

The experts are back and have pharmacy’s back :: Stephen G. Greenwood : 11/6/2014 : In politics, when the going gets tough, governments have a preponderance to make life tough for the public. They then justify their often unintentional contribution to the sum total of human misery by resorting to rhetoric and hyperbole, often blaming the public for using the very programs that they created or have supported for decades.

Along the way, business often gets caught in the cross fire because precipitous radical policy change rarely comes with prior consultation. The current Government actions over the Budget ‘we had to have’ are a case in point.

For the past several years governments of either colour have set about addressing the so called blow out in the PBS budget by targeting pharmacists and pharmaceutical manufacturers through price disclosure and other cuts.   More... premium

No time to be thankful for small mercies :: John Bronger : 3/6/2014 : It doesn’t look like we’ll get any more clarity soon about how much of the Federal Government’s Budget will be passed into legislation, with pretty much all opposition parties, state premiers and, according to post-budget polls, about 70% of Australians opposed to pretty much all of it.

Nevertheless, it points to a number of important positions the government has taken, especially in respect of healthcare.   More... premium

Peace of mind :: Justin Lee : 27/5/2014 : After enduring months of nagging from his wife, a friend of mine went to have his ongoing back pain investigated. He had the misfortune of being diagnosed with a slipped disc, possibly a result of his numerous DIY home improvement projects for which he refused to pay a professional. To make matters worse, he only had basic hospital cover via his private health insurance which excluded back surgery; this meant that he had to go on the public hospital waiting list where the minimum waiting period was three years or spend a substantial sum of money to be treated privately.

For many young pharmacists, a tight budget usually means very careful spending on products and services that do not produce a tangible benefit or attract a financial penalty. So while young pharmacists are willing to pay for food, clothing and creature comforts; as well as settle their bills, maintain subscriptions / registrations and pay off loans; they may be less inclined to spend on insurance. After all, why pay for something that you are unlikely to ever use?   More... premium

PBS co-payment increases a 'contradictory approach' to health policy :: Executive Director of the Pharmacy Guild: David Quilty : 20/5/2014 : The Coalition Government’s first Budget has signalled a fundamental change to how health services will be funded going forward.

The Government has made very clear that it expects patients to make increased contributions to their own health care and that the Government, in turn, will reduce its funding  to the health care providers who deliver these services.

The Government’s clearly stated rationale for this new approach is that it considers health spending to be growing at an unsustainable rate.   More... premium

Smokin’ Joe’s Mean Medicine :: Stephen G. Greenwood : 14/5/2014 : Before the sexual revolution, mothers used to counsel their daughters that when it came to consummating the marriage they should ‘lie back and think of England’. Smokin’ Joe Hockey’s first Budget is a bit like that. 

Australians have been asked to think of the good of the nation and do all the heavy lifting to get the Budget back on track out of a sense of duty.    More... premium

Abuser pays .... a debate beyond the price of toothpaste. :: John Chapman : 13/5/2014 : In today's AusPharm feature pharmacy elder John Chapman dusts off a piece he wrote back in 1999 about the cost of health care in this country. It is as relevant today, in the leadup to tonight's federal budget, as it was then.

"Some years ago (Sept 99) I wrote an article in the now-defunct ‘Priceless’ (a Sigma publication). In that piece, I canvassed the question of the increasing costs of medical care, the proposition that society’s capacity to provide care had exceeded our capacity to pay for it and, more specifically, whether persons suffering from the so-called ‘lifestyle’ diseases might be required to pay for the costs of treatment. These issues remain just as relevant in 2014.

Click the link below to read my 1999 article. Its sub-text is that, as health professionals, pharmacists should have a role in this debate."   More... premium

If it ain't broke... :: National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia: George Tambassis : 8/5/2014 : The report of the National Commission of Audit has been given quite a mauling, and while I hesitate to add to the frenzy, the recommendations on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and pharmacy cannot be allowed to go unrebutted.   More... premium

Thinking outside the Agreement square :: PSA National President Grant Kardachi : 6/5/2014 : The degree of uncertainty surrounding the direction that the next Community Pharmacy Agreement will take - and what effect that will have on the profession overall - has created a degree of pessimism among some pharmacists as to the future for pharmacists.

This pessimism was evident at the recent APP2014 on the Gold Coast and was possibly added to by the report of the government’s Commission of Audit, released last Thursday. However, also at APP2014, the counterbalancing opportunities for optimism were also evident.   More... premium

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. Pharmacy and the Commission of Audit Report :: Stephen G. Greenwood : 2/5/2014 : Mayday used to be a time of celebratory festivities albeit in the northern hemisphere but for pharmacists awaiting the report of the Commission of Audit, Mayday was more like a national emergency distress signal and a portent of what to expect in the forthcoming federal Budget.

For pharmacists and the health sector generally I warned back in October 2013 that pharmacists should be alarmed because the 1996 Commission of Audit ‘caused Pharmacy more problems than you’d find in a maths book’. It looks like the 2014 Commission of Audit is determined to cause Pharmacy untold trouble. Like its counterpart in 1996, this Commission of Audit has recommended that pharmacy ownership be deregulated and location rules as well.   More... premium

Words are wind: time for action :: John Bronger : 29/4/2014 : The last community pharmacy agreement was negotiated in the lead-up to a federal election and that was considered to be a good thing because we all know politicians are more persuaded to listen when their jobs are on the line. How did that go for us?

At the time negotiations were cut short and an early agreement was heralded with predictions of growth and increased professional service funding to offset dispensary losses from price disclosure.

Since that agreement those predictions have been blown out of the water with successive accelerations of price disclosure and reviews of key therapeutic categories of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines.   More... premium

Pharmacy needs to get close to Clive Palmer :: Stephen G. Greenwood : 15/4/2014 : With the conclusion of the Western Australian half Senate election re-run it is clearer than ever that if the Government wants to get anything done, they are going to have to deal with Clive Palmer when the new Senate takes effect from 1 July. And it’s an issue which is also focussing the minds of pharmacists as the negotiations on the Sixth Agreement loom into view. After the WA Senate re-run, Palmer has three senators and will effectively hold the balance of power.

The Abbott Government needs 39 votes in the Senate to pass any legislation. As it will most likely hold 33 Senate positions in the parliament from 1 July, the Government needs six of the eight cross bench votes to get anything through. Labor and the Greens will most likely hold a combined 35 votes. The conclusion is that, whether trying to pass legislation or block it, the Palmer block of four votes will hold the key.  Getting access to that key has now become crucial for pharmacy organisations wanting to garner influence in Canberra.   More... premium

5CPA Program caps :: PSA National President Grant Kardachi : 8/4/2014 : The need for the delivery of medication reviews to be based on clinical need has been underscored by the decision to cap the number of MedChecks, Diabetes MedsChecks and Homes Medicines Reviews that pharmacists can deliver. The decision also affects RMMRs with a new two-year timeframe introduced.

These fundamental changes are flowing on in the form of reduced services for consumers and a loss of income, in some cases a significant loss, for pharmacists performing these reviews in various areas of practice.

No one doubts that MedsChecks, Diabetes MedsChecks, Home Medicines Reviews and RMMRs are very valuable in ensuring the quality use of medicines and medication compliance by consumers.   More... premium

Psychotropic use in aged care facilities: pharmacists ‘capped’ out of the solution :: Juanita Westbury : 1/4/2014 : Dr Juanita Westbury was the Project lead for the RedUSe Project whose aim was to promote the appropriate use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in the aged care setting.

Here's her take on recent media coverage of the issue and on the role pharmacists should play in ensuring quality use of medicines in the aged care setting.   More... premium

What do consumers want? :: Justin Lee : 25/3/2014 : Many pharmacists seem to believe that consumers want cheaper prices for medicines. By and large, this is true. But even if medicines were more expensive across the board, consumers would still keep coming to pharmacies because they are unable to get the bulk of their medicines needs elsewhere. The same applies to the price of fuel; consumers want cheaper fuel prices but even if prices rise, most consumers would still go to the servo because they would not be able to obtain fuel elsewhere. Unless the supply of medicines by pharmacists working in pharmacies is deregulated, consumers will keep coming to pharmacies.

Recognising the limitations of relying on income from dispensing, our pharmacist organisations have been consistently promoting the need for innovation, particularly in the area of professional services. But do consumers really want the current range of professional services being developed? Would consumers go in droves to pharmacies for their vaccinations or are pharmacies just introducing competition to the market?   More... premium

The answer lies - at least in part - in the better use of pharmacists' skills :: PSA National President Grant Kardachi : 18/3/2014 : The Abbott Government will deliver its first Budget in May and at present it seems it will be a budget featuring heavy cuts, particularly in big-spending areas like health.

PSA does not see that reducing health spending will help to achieve better health outcomes for the community, or indeed help to meet the Government’s imperative of ensuring we enjoy a sustainable health system into the future.

Rather we think the answer lies – at least in part - in the better use of pharmacists’ skills.   More... premium

About this page 

This features page will be updated with new opinion pieces regularly. Unlike the hard copy publications that publish all their content once each week/fortnight/month we will publish on a rolling basis.

Got something to say? Fancy yourself as a features writer? 

At we are always on the lookout for people with an opinion to express. If you think you fit the bill, contact Mark Dunn to express an interest or to get further information.

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