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AusPharm news

What was Medicare Australia's 'problem'? : 13/08/2008 :

'Listers in community pharmacies will have received this fax from Medicare Australia yesterday. It begins:

On 1 August, Medicare Australia experienced a problem which impacted on payment of the $1.50 premium free dispensing incentive to pharmacy. This problem was rectified by 11.00am EST on 1 August 2008.

The problem resulted in non payment of the $1.50 incentive on all eligible prescriptions that were dispensed on 1 August 2008 between midnight and 11am EST. All eligible prescriptions dispensed after 11am EST on 1 August 2008 were correctly paid the $1.50 incentive.

AusPharm wonders whether the problem was that someone simply forgot to flick the 'on' switch.

NPS releases position statement on zolpidem and sleep-related behaviours : 12/08/2008 :

The National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) yesterday released a new position statement on zolpidem (Stilnox) and sleep-related behaviours.

NPS Deputy CEO, Karen Kaye said the position statement explains the background to the TGA’s decision to impose a boxed warning on zolpidem and describes the current place of this hypnotic drug in insomnia therapy. The paper examines the evidence linking the medicine with bizarre sleep-related behaviours, such as sleepwalking, sleep-eating and sleep-driving. It also outlines treatments for insomnia and guidance for counselling patients, pointing GPs and pharmacists to the NPS Fact Sheet on zolpidem released in February this year.

Both documents can be found on the NPS website - the position statement here and the fact sheet, designed for consumers, here. NPS also reports that its website design was updated this week to make searching for the most relevant and up-to-date information about medicines much easier.

Student Business Plan competition finalists announced : 11/08/2008 :

The finalists for the 2008 National Student Business Plan Competition, an Australia-wide challenge that gives pharmacy students practical experience in setting up a small business, have been announced.

Three teams from Griffith University, the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland were selected from six semi-finalists to progress to the final stage of the competition.

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Poll result: how many labels? : 08/08/2008 :

This week's AusPharm poll asked 'listers how they label prescriptions with multiple packs, specifically Panadeine Forte, for the purposes of the poll.

The results, shown below, tell us that 62% of respondents (n=286) label every box with the others taping either all or some of the boxes together.

We'd be interested in how this issue is viewed by both the Pharmacy Boards around the country and pharmacists' professional insurer, PDL. We'll refer them to our poll and see if we can get a comment for next week.

August NPS RADAR update : 08/08/2008 :

The NPS August 2008 update has been published on the NPS website. NPS RADAR articles provide timely, independent, evidence-based assessment of new drugs, new PBS listings and research for health professionals. Articles this month include:

Duloxetine (Cymbalta) for major depressive disorder
New product PBS listed June 2008

Duloxetine is a serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressant, in the same class as venlafaxine. It provides another treatment option, but does not offer any particular advantages over existing therapies.

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Codeine/ibuprofen scheduling to remain as is : 07/08/2008 :

The National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee (NDPSC) yesterday announced its decision to leave in place the current scheduling for ibuprofen-codeine combination pain-relief products. It did, however, foreshadow a review of packs sizes allowable in both schedule two and schedule three and also announced its intention to form a working party to review the availability of all OTC codeine combination analgesics.

The principal reasons cited for retaining the status quo were that these products are a useful part of the OTC analgesic armory and that, while anecdotal reports of misuse have surfaced, there is very little hard evidence that this is a widespread problem.

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New PSA National President elected : 07/08/2008 :

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia announced yesterday that NSW pharmacist, Warwick Plunkett, has been elected as the new President of the Society. Mr Plunkett was previously National President in 1996 and 1997.

Two Vice-Presidents were also elected, Shane Jackson (Tas) and Grant Kardachi (SA).

Mr Plunkett said the major task for him would be to mould the newly unified organisation into a strong base for the future. “My job is primarily to get us off to a solid start with strong foundations,” Mr Plunkett said.

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PSA awards ACT's top pharmacy students : 06/08/2008 :

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's ACT Branch presented awards to two of the top students graduating from the University of Canberra's Master of Pharmacy program at a ceremony in Canberra on July 29.

"It's a great way to encourage linkages between the newly graduated students and the Society," said PSA ACT Branch President Associate Professor Cooper, who is also the Head of Pharmacy at the University of Canberra.

Adam Walsh was awarded the Gold Medal for achieving the highest grade-point average across the two-year Masters program. Belinda Riley, pictured at right, was awarded the Certificate for Pharmacy Practice.

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Two women as Guild Branch presidents : 06/08/2008 :

The Pharmacy Guild now has women as Branch Presidents in Tasmania and Western Australia after Judy Liauw (Tas) and Lenette Mullen (WA) were elected unopposed in the Guild's recent Branch Committee Elections.

Ms Liauw and Ms Mullen join former ACT Branch President Kate Carnell as the only women elected as Guild Branch Presidents. Prior to Kate Carnell, Margaret Bickle from NSW was the only woman ever elected to the Guild National Council.

National President of the Guild, Kos Sclavos, congratulated Ms Liauw and Ms Mullen on their election wins and heralded the development as a great step forward for community pharmacy and the Guild.

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Poll: labelling of items with multiple packs : 06/08/2008 :

Over the years AusPharm has had discussions with colleagues about how various prescription items should best be labelled. For example, should a Ventolin puffer be labelled on the box or on the blue plastic puffer itself? There are arguments both for and against each option. In the same vein, for a prescription for 120 Panadeine Forte, should each box be labelled or is it OK to stick some or all of the boxes together?

Please tell us what you do by ticking the relevant box in today's AusPharm poll at left.

August ADRAC Bulletin released : 05/08/2008 :

The August 2008 issue of the Australian Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRAC) Bulletin has been released.

It contains alerts relating to high dose Vitamin B6 and peripheral neuropathy, desmopression and hyponatraemia and an article describing the new 'blue card' for health profesionals to use in reporting adverse drug reactions.

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Cyril Tonkin Fellowships open : 05/08/2008 :

The 2008 Cyril Tonkin Visiting Fellowships are now open to Victorian pharmacists who are interested in researching the future of pharmacy practice and helping PSA and the VCP deliver best practice education.

Endowed in 1976, the Cyril Tonkin Fellowship of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria promotes innovation and leadership in the profession of pharmacy through visits to international pharmacy institutions. The initiative is open to any student of, or graduate, from the Victorian College of Pharmacy.

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Confusion around premiums and incentives : 05/08/2008 :

Pharmacies will have received faxes from some drug companies during last week reminding them that the $1.50 'generics' dispensing incentive also applies to originator brands with no premium.

Examples of these products include Coversyl, Diamicron MR, Dilatrend, Cardizem, Tritace and Monopril. As these medicines are both substitutable with other brands and premium-free, they attract the $1.50 incentive. The $1.50 payment applies whichever brand is dispensed, originator or generic.

NPS reaffirms 'antibiotics don't help colds' message : 05/08/2008 :

'Kids got a cold? Don't trouble your doctor' says The National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) in a message to parents released yesterday.

According to NPS, while it is a natural reaction for a worried parent to seek medicine for a sick child, Australians are among the highest users of antibiotics in the world - and peak prescribing is during "cold season" - August. NPS Executive Manager of Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) Programs, Karen Kaye, says, "Antibiotics don't work on the viruses which cause common colds, so asking for a script will not help your child."

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Call for re-investment of PBS savings : 04/08/2008 :

On August 1, the day the PBS Reform price reductions took effect, Medicines Australia issued a statement urging the Federal Government to ensure that the revenue generated as a result of these price reductions is used to ensure Australians have access to new (innovative) medicines in the future.

According to Medicines Australia CEO, Ian Chalmers, “PBS reform was always about using a more competitive generics market to guarantee that Australians will have access in the future to cutting edge therapies. PBS price cuts for older medicines commenced today. But the job is only half done because it’s not yet clear that Australians’ access to new medicines in the future is assured. Medicines Australia is working with the Federal Government through the Access to Medicines Working Group. It is hoped this collaboration will ensure future access to innovative new medicines for Australian patients.”

CHOICE critical of 'memory-enhancing' pills : 04/08/2008 :

Consumer advocate CHOICE published another medication related survey report over the weekend, this time taking aim at 'Memory-enhancing' pills.

According to CHOICE, two meals of oily fish a week can do as much or more to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia as many of the so-called “smart” pills which claim to improve brain function.

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Watch Kos Sclavos at the National Press Club : 01/08/2008 :

On Wednesday July 23, Guild President Kos Sclavos delivered a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra.

While the proposals he detailed in his speech were well received in pharmacy circles, some doctor's groups are now critical of the 'Medication Continuance' proposal, this despite apparent words of support in the days following Mr Sclavos's speech.

The Pharmacy Guild has posted the speech on its website and, if you haven't seen it, it's worth a look. Click here to watch it now.

Poll result: who issues sickness certificates? : 01/08/2008 :

This week's poll asked 'listers whether the pharmacy they work in offers a sickness certificate service. The results, shown below, tell us that less than a quarter of respondents' pharmacies do. Of interest are the reasons pharmacies don't offer the service with 37% saying they just haven't got around to it, 23% saying it's too hard and another 18% worried about legal issues.

While this suggests that up to 60% of pharmacies will (soon?) offer this service, at least 40% won't. AusPharm is surprised by this - we hold to what we wrote back in February , that this is a terrific opportunity to be re-imbursed for a service unrelated to product supply. 


John Ware awarded RPSGB Fellowship : 31/07/2008 :

Victorian PSA identity John Ware, pictured at left, has been awarded a Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) Fellowship, acknowledging his contribution to the pharmacy profession in a wide variety of roles.

Mr Ware is president of the Western Pacific Pharmaceutical Forum (WPPF) of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and has been FIP’s representative to the World Health Organisation, Western Pacific Region, since 1990. He is also a pharmacist consultant engaged in the consultative process for the delivery of continuing pharmacy education services and the facilitation of home medicine reviews (HMRs) within the Australian General Practice Network and to pharmacists accredited for HMRs.

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Call for abstracts for 10th National Rural Health Conference : 31/07/2008 :

The National Rural Health Alliance has called for abstracts for the 10th National Rural Health Conference, to be held in Cairns from 17 - 20 May 2009.

Full information is available at the Conference website. The closing date for abstract submissions is Friday 3 October 2008.

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