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May 2002 issue Pharmacy Today magazine


An Auckland pharmacist, has been muzzled after criticising The Quit Group's handling of pharmacy NRT exchange charge contracts.

Pharmacy Today understands Quit Group's lawyers demanded Warren Flaunty refrain from making public statements about the subsidised NRT programme if he wanted his contract to continue.

Warrant Flaunty declined to comment, apart from saying, as a member of Waitemata District Health Board, he will push for local pharmacists to supply exchange cards under the DHB.

In a statement, Quit Group exchange card co-ordinator Steve Cook said he was unable to discuss "individual arrangements."

However, Quit Group is "very happy" for people to discuss the programme, he said.

Last year, Steve Cook criticised Warren Flaunty for doing his profession a "disservice" for speaking out over Quit Group's bungled attempt to prematurely terminate contracts with around 80 pharmacists.

Warren Flaunty also claimed $6800 for advertising and staff training costs, forcing Quit group to back down and reinstate all pharmacy contracts.

Ministry directive

Quit Group had been directed to cancel the contracts by the Ministry of Health. The decision was prompted by advice from Pharmac and ministry advisers that pharmacists were effectively dispensing and prescribing with the potential to make a "small financial gain" - the $7 dispensing fee.

At around the same time, Warren Flaunty was also censured by Minister of Health Annette King for describing the ministry's failure to reimburse pharmacists for hospital-only medicines as a "debacle."

Pharmacies first began signing up as exchange card providers in November 2000.

Steve Cook was unable to say how many contracts are still valid but said no pharmacy will provide cards after contracts expire.

But at least one pharmacist, spoken to by Pharmacy Today, has got around the prescribing-dispensing conflict.

He has contracted out the work of supplying the cards to an employee pharmacist, keeping the whole process in-house.

Auckland pharmacist Maree Jensen's exchange card contract expired at the end of last year.

Being able to access pharmacists promptly and consulting a familiar health professional were two crucial factors in pharmacy's contribution to the NRT programme - particularly when exchange cards from Quitline can take several weeks to arrive, she said.

"The thing is to strike addiction when the mood is hot otherwise the chance of success is much, much less when the impetus for change is lost," she added.

Asked what were the benefits or disadvantages of including pharmacists in the programme, Steve Cook said it was difficult to answer because it was the ministry's decision to involve pharmacy, not Quit Group's.

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