Pharmacies warn of drug shortages


The pharmacy lobby group says new dispensing rules will cause businesses to go under.

As the countdown begins to new 60-day dispensing rules from September, pharmacies are pleading for help, saying people will go without medicines and businesses will go under.

Funding changes in the Federal Budget bolsters the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and extends the supply limits of 325 types of medicines from 30 days’ supply to 60.

The Albanese government says the reform will save Australians up to $180 a year and reduce the amount of visits patients, with stable but chronic illness, will need to make to the GP.

But the pharmaceutical industry claim it will destroy community businesses, reducing store foot traffic, while also creating supply shortages.

Maddington Pharmacy 777 chemist Nathan Paull says the policy change is likely to cripple his business and less customers will impact staff hours. He says the reforms will reduce his ability to care for customers.

“Overnight our script volume will drop about 30 per cent – which for us will be catastrophic,” Mr Paull said.

He said it will enable some people to sit on two-months worth of medicine while others will have to go without.

“There will be pharmacies that go broke, and the rest of us will have to cut something, and it will be the customers who will pay,” said Mr Paull.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia say more than 40 per cent of the 325 medicines are already in shortage or anticipated shortage.

Mr Paull has pleaded with his customers to be understanding in a video shared on the pharmacy’s Facebook page.

But Federal minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler disputes that medicine availability will be adversely affected.

Mr Butler says the pharmaceutical industry has launched a scare campaign.

The Health Department promises every dollar saved by the Government under the scheme will be reinvested back into community pharmacies.

Mr Paull says that of the $3.5 billion that the pharmaceutical industry will lose from the change, only $1.2 billion will be saved by the government.

“It doesn’t address the rest of it that falls away when patients aren’t coming in as regularly – there’s a big gap there,” Mr Paull says.

“There’s definitely a call for cheaper medicines – but there are better ways of doing it.”

A Health Department media statement states that although Australians will halve their own medical costs, there will be fewer visits to the GP and pharmacies.

Mr Butler said that the new policy will not change the demand, supply, or availability of medicines in pharmacies.