COVID-19 Medicines and Pharmacy Update April 2, 2020

Ethan FrenchCOVID-19 Medicines updates, COVID-19 News, Medicines

1. Australian Government COVID-19 and Medicines Update – new and updated measures announced

There have been new announcements related to COVID-19 and medicines from the Australian Government. 

The measures include:

  • Continued dispensing arrangements for the ongoing supply of PBS medicines without a prescription will be extended to 30 June 2020. This had originally been enacted during the bushfire crisis and allows patients to continue to access their usual medicines through pharmacy for up to 1 month without a script, under specific conditions.  
  • Changes to allow community pharmacists to substitute dose strengths or forms of medicines without prior approval from the prescribing doctor, if a medicine is unavailable at the time of dispensing, within specific guidelines and rules.
  • The Home Medicines Service for PBS and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) medicines rate per delivery has been increased from $5 to $7.77 and an arrangement with Australia Post now exists to use existing infrastructure where needed.  More information from NACCHO on the home medicines service can be found here
  • Restrictions on the quantity of medicines that can be purchased to prevent unnecessary medicine stockpiling, which NACCHO reported in our Medicines Update on 23rd March that you can find here

For more information on these measures , please see the links below:

https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/ensuring-continued-access-to-medicines-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

http://www.pbs.gov.au/info/news/2020/03/continued-dispensing-arrangements-covid-19

2. State and territory laws change to enable ongoing PBS supply

Over the past week most states and territories have announced extensions of measures first put in place during the recent bushfire crisis.  The measures allow the emergency supply of most Schedule 4 (S4) medicines without a prescription for eligible patients under specific criteria.  These measures enable supply of up to one months’ worth of medicines and are consistent with the continued dispensing arrangements for PBS medicines announced by the Australian Government referenced above.   To find out more about these arrangements in your state or territory we encourage you to visit their respective health department website or contact a department representative or your local pharmacy directly.

3. NPS MedicineWise COVID-19 webpage – useful resources for patients and ACCHOs

A new COVID-19 hub “Being medicinewise during COVID-19” is being updated regularly and contains lots of information about medicines, including how to manage regular medicines during the COVID-19 outbreak, pharmacy and prescribing restrictions, hand hygiene and more.  Additional content will be added on an ongoing basis for both health professionals and consumers. NPS are inviting health organisations, professionals and consumers to get in touch if you have relevant resources you would like to share.

The webpage can be found here.

4. Medicines access

NACCHO would like to thank ACCHOs and others for their feedback regarding medicines shortages so far.  NACCHO has spoken with several national bodies, organisations and companies to flag these issues and to seek solutions.  The TGA have responded with some measures, which you can see here.  These include limits on dispensing volumes and repeats, limits on pharmacy over-the-counter sales, legislation preventing prescribers inappropriately prescribing salbutamol and hydroxychloroquine and caution notices regarding ‘over-buying’ of medicines.

Now the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) have approved an application by medicines wholesalers to enable them to co-ordinate the supply, inventory management, distribution, logistics, and import of pharmaceuticals needed by consumers and hospitals.  We are hopeful that these measures will improve the availability of medicines and medical supplies for all regional, remote and urban communities in the coming days and weeks. 

NACCHO also welcomes further feedback to medicines@naccho.org.au regarding medicines shortages that we will continue to provide to the relevant organisations.