LOCAL pharmacies are joining the national fight to maintain pharmacy services and the survival of hundreds of pharmacies, and ask the community for support by signing the Pharmacy Under Threat petition.
Petitions from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia are located at a range of pharmacies across the region and people have until Saturday, September 14 to sign.
Two days before the election was called, the federal government announced major changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) that the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said will have a serious impact on all community pharmacies.
Pharmacist Nathan Cooper from Guardian Pharmacy is also the zone leader for the guild in this area and is leading the campaign to inform the public of the implications of the changes and how they can help as they take the fight to the newly elected government.
Under the new arrangements, off-patent PBS listed medicines will face price cuts 12 months after generic versions come into the market, instead of after 18 months, and subsequent price reductions will be made at six monthly intervals, from October 1, 2014
Nathan said the changes breach the terms of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement, as no consultation took place.
He explained the current agreement was for five years, which they are halfway through, and that the terms ruled that major changes couldn't happen without consultation.
Nathan said the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is a huge part of the Australian health system and ultimately pays for the distribution and supply of medicines, and the government subsidises the cost of medicines for Australians.
He said the beauty of it is it isn't the cheapest price model, but $5.90 concession and $36.10 general, which has been legislated by the government so the most you pay is that price in any town or city.
The government pays the bills and is responsible for providing the same level of supply to all pharmacies.
"The whole concept is about supply and providing healthcare." He said the changes will affect the viability of pharmacies.
It is estimated the changes will cost each pharmacy $90,000 in the 2014/15 year and it is predicted hundreds of pharmacies (there are thousands in the country) will close.
The Pharmacy Guild is working closely with other pharmacy organisations and individual pharmacy groups to secure an adjustment in pharmacy remuneration to offset the impact of this change.
While not opposed to the low-cost option, Nathan said their argument is that pharmacies shouldn't have to wear the cost of making medicines cheaper - it should be the government. Prior to the election the Pharmacy Guild secured written commitments to community pharmacy by prime minister-elect Tony Abbot and incoming deputy prime minister Warren Truss.
Next is the need to negotiate compensation arrangements that ensure the viability of community pharmacy into the future.
Nathan is happy to discuss the matter with interested locals.