The powerful pharmacy lobby group has agreed to suspend its crusade against the federal government’s 60-day medicine reforms on the day they come into effect.
From Friday, millions of Australians with chronic illness will be able to obtain 60 days of medication at a time, up from 30, at no extra cost.
In exchange for earlier, good faith negotiations on the next community pharmacy agreement, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said it was suspending its public campaign objecting to the new policy after citing concerns about closures and job losses.
Health Minister Mark Butler said almost four million Australians using 100 medicines to treat ongoing health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis would effectively get “two scripts for the price of one”.
“It will mean fewer visits to the GP and pharmacist as well as more money in your hip pocket,” he told ABC News.
The lobby group said the reforms would force pharmacies, especially those in regional areas, to close and risk thousands of jobs.
Mr Butler said it was “just another campaign” from the pharmacy lobby on behalf of the “highly profitable” industry.
But on Friday, the guild said it was now working with the Albanese government to “immediately” enter negotiations to secure an eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement.
“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia remains committed to working with the Albanese government to deliver cheaper medicines in a way that does not adversely impact the viability of community pharmacies or patients’ access to community pharmacy services,” president Trent Twomey said.
“We thank the Prime Minister and the Health Minister for hearing our concerns and 60-day dispensing, along with other reforms, will now be dealt with in the normal way under a Community Pharmacy Agreement.”
Such was the Coalition’s concern that last month it launched a bid to block the policy from starting on September 1 despite the legislation having already passed.
After a bizarre back-and-forth in the Senate, the move was blocked – but the Coalition threatened to try again from September 4 when parliament resumes.
Mr Butler said he didn’t understand why the Coalition would seek to block a measure that had been “recommended for years” by authorities, was supported by patients groups and was key to helping people.
“It is good for the hip pocket, it is good for people’s individual health and it is really good for the health system,” he said.
“I encourage Peter Dutton to stop trying to block this measure and get behind it.”
Mr Butler said he was confident that community pharmacy had a “strong viable future”.
“Which is why every single dollar we save is being ploughed back into the community pharmacy sector, reinvested into programs that allow them to provide more services to their customers,” he said.