AMA warns Dutton not to ‘capitulate’ for a second time over 60-day dispensing reforms

The Opposition leader is being accused of wobbling over a reform that will reduce patients' out-of-pocket costs.
Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton. Photo: Facebook.

Peter Dutton has been told not to buckle under a “scare campaign” by pharmacy owners and let patients suffer unnecessary financial pain by blocking 60-day dispensing.

The call to the federal Opposition leader is made in a highly critical letter penned by the AMA that accuses the Coalition of “capitulating” when the PBAC originally recommended that GPs should be free to issue the longer scripts back in 2018.

Although the latest changes are meant to be in place by 1 September, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is urging Coalition, Greens and crossbench senators to support a disallowance motion in the Upper House.

The latest version of the guild’s nationwide lobbying campaign is called Save Your Local Pharmacy.

It says after-hours openings, 20,000 jobs, 665 pharmacies, and services such as blood pressure checks, medicine delivery to the elderly and baby weighing are under threat should the policy go ahead.

It has also suggested children will be at risk of medication overdoses and the health system will be hit by mass drug shortages.

The AMA claims the Opposition’s failure while in government to adopt 60-day dispensing, along with a history of cuts to health funding, including the Medicare freeze, “undeniably led to increased out-of-pocket costs for patients”.

“At a time when many people are struggling with cost-of-living pressures, the public positioning of the Coalition on 60-day dispensing suggests they are intent on having patients continue to absorb unnecessary financial pain,” adds the letter, signed by AMA president Professor Steve Robson.

If a disallowance motion fails, GPs will be free to write 60-day scripts for around 100 PBS medicines from 1 September, with a further 100 medications added to the list next March and then the following September.

According to a Department of Health and Aged Care impact analysis, the policy will save some 38 million dispensings in 2023/24 — climbing to 68 million in 2026/27.

In terms of PBS revenue losses in the first year, the maximum figure for the average practice would be $49,000, it adds.

Back in April, when the policy was first announced, Mr Dutton appeared in an online video with his local pharmacy.

“Many, particularly older Australians, but families as well, really rely on the relationship with their local pharmacist,” he warned.

“The government’s proposal at the moment is going to make it harder to do that work and have that relationship with their patients.”

Read more: Pharmacy baby weighing and BP checks in jeopardy with 60-day dispensing, warns guild