Letter to Minister Butler re: 60 day dispensing changes

15 May 2023

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care
House of Representatives
PO Box 6022
Parliament House

Re: 60 day dispensing changes


Dear Minister Butler,

I am writing to seek clarification of the reasoning and risks involved in the recently
announced changes to allow for 60 day dispensing of prescription medicines by
pharmacies. While I appreciate that the stated ambition of this change is to reduce
cost of living pressures for Australians, there is an element of procedural fairness to
small businesses which appears to have been missed in this debate. Following
consultation with pharmacies across my electorate, many fear that their business
model is in serious jeopardy as a result of the changes.

Pharmacists in Warringah believe that the changes should have been negotiated as
part of a renewed Community Pharmacy Agreement rather than as a change to the
current agreement mid-term. This change will impact the business model of
community pharmacies, the $1.2billion budget saving that results is demonstration of
the scale of the hit to community pharmacies, not withstanding claims that the
money will be reinvested in the sector. Many pharmacies had made decisions based
on their faith that the 5 year agreement would be in place until at least 2025.

I am concerned that the pharmacies in my electorate will reduce the level of service
that they currently offer as a result of this change and some may go out of business.

Many pharmacies provide vital relief to the primary care sector with clients often
seeking the advice of a pharmacist prior to seeking help from a General Practitioner.
By reducing funding to pharmacies, they may not be available to provide this service
in future. Moreover, other services such as filling Webster packs and delivery
services may be reduced as a result of this change.
Pharmacists in my electorate also raised a range of other concerns about this change
which I am sure that you would be familiar with including the:

1. current shortage of supply of some medications on the list of medicines
eligible for 60 day dispensing;
2. potential for those supply shortages to be exacerbated by hoarding of
medication (intentional or unintentional) by patrons; and
3. overdose risk due to increased abundance of medications in possession at any
one point in time.

While I appreciate that the Government has addressed these concerns through public
commentary, pharmacists continue to raise their concerns about these issues,
especially the exacerbated impact on supply shortages.

I urge you to engage in a conversation with pharmacists over the sustainability of
their business model and what changes can be made within the Community
Pharmacy Agreement to ease cost of living pressures. Alternatively, you may wish to
consider bringing forward the renegotiation of that agreement to ensure that this
change can be made within the context of a good faith negotiation.

Yours sincerely,

Zali Steggall OAM, MP
Federal Member for Warringah