March 2002 issue Pharmacy Today magazine
The government is refusing to budge on pharmacy ownership deregulation despite active lobbying from the Pharmacy Guild, Pharmaceutical Society and individual pharmacists.
A meeting last month between Minister of Health Annette King, Pharmacy Guild president Gray Maingay and guild chief executive Murray Burns, was an opportunity to present the guild's concerns over the proposed changes. But it failed to sway the minister's views.
Murray Burns described the meeting as "useful" but Annette King is standing firm. "No information given at that meeting convinced me that the way to provide safe pharmaceutical services is through ownership of business," she said.
Annette King says she has received little correspondence from individual pharmacists, however, the "tiny" number who have written are opposed to the changes.
Annette King refused to answer questions from Pharmacy Today over whether government MPs had been informed of Cabinet's decision before it was posted on her website in December.
However, Rotorua MP and chair of Labour's caucus health committee, Steve Chadwick, said the first she heard of it was in an e-mail from a local pharmacist in January.
As Pharmacy Today went to press, she said the issue had yet to be debated in caucus and MPs had not been formally informed of the decision, having effectively been "missed out of the loop." The minister has since briefed her.
The Greens were informed of the changes last year.
Pharmacists from around the country report Labour MPs had little or no knowledge of Cabinet's decision.
For many, the first they knew of it was when they were contacted by concerned pharmacists.
Steve Chadwick says caucus would normally have been informed of Cabinet decision earlier. She said the changes are Cabinet's decision and not Labour health policy.
Pharmacists who have written to the Ministry of Health, over pharmacy ownership, are missing the point, according to Dr Gillian Durham.
The deputy director-general of sector policy says the message pharmacists are sending - "the present system is OK so why change it?" - is wrong.
She says low income groups, Maori, and Pacific Island communities, are missing out on primary healthcare, including prescribed medicines, to a greater degree and dying at a higher rate than other New Zealanders.
The number of people arriving at hospitals with medication-related problems, indicates clinical pharmacy has more to offer primary health than retail ownership, she said.
The ministry claims opening up pharmacy ownership to non-pharmacists will offer greater accessibility and encourage pharmacists into more clinical work.
Gillian Durham suggests one indicator of how better medication management could help patients and health budgets, is an adverse events study of patient records published last year by the Christchurch School of Medicine.
The small feasibility study at three public hospitals in 1995, found drug-related adverse events classified as causing permanent disability or death, made up 15.6% of the 142 cases. Almost 44% were viewed as "highly preventable."
Under the new Pharmacy Services Contract, Pharmaceutical Review Services funding has fallen from $2.5 million over three years to $350,000 a year.
Both the guild and ministry say the reason was that pharmacists were not taking up PRS to the degree originally hoped for.
The Pharmaceutical Society has been making some inroads on reviewing the draft Medicines Bill.
Gillian Durham says the inclusion of the society's Code of Ethics into the licensing structure, and possibly the society's input into the application process, is being considered.
The bill is at its first draft stage. Both Gillian Durham and Pharmaceutical Society chief executive Dr Joan Baas say it still requires a lot of work.
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