Charlotte Ransom from Capital Chemist and Andrew Douglas,  at Priceline Pharmacy, speak out on the proposed 60-day dispensing Federal Budget ‘savings’ measure.

The proposed 60-day dispensing of medicine at local pharmacies and chemists will be detrimental to patients and medicine providers, says Yass Capital Chemist Pharmacist and Co-Owner Charlotte Ransom.

After the news broke of 60-day dispensing becoming more and more likely on Thursday night, The Times got in contact with local pharmacists in Yass, including Managing Pharmacist Charlotte Ransom at Capital Chemist and Andrew Douglas, Managing Pharmacist at Priceline Pharmacy.

60-day dispensing of medical scripts is double the standard 30-day limit that is currently in place, with the proposed extension potentially leading to medication mismanagement and medicine shortages on top of already critical supply shortages across the nation.

Managing a team of 17 staff, Ransom also said that the 60-day dispensing will lead to job losses and the closure of her pharmacy if the proposal is followed through with and she has fears for local chemists and residents in the Yass Valley.

Managing Director Charlotte Ransom supported by her staff amidst fears her business may not survive the proposed federal changes

“We’re going to have many less pharmacies because we’re not going to be able to survive. That’s going to cause an even larger bottleneck on our healthcare system,” Ransom stressed.

“It’s a hard job to get pharmacists, doctors, or anyone out here. I can speak for myself, and I say my pharmacy will close if this happens.

“This is job loss. This is a loss to accessible healthcare support to the rural community of Yass. This is destruction to the sustainability of our precious country towns,” Ransom pleaded.

“Doctors are booked solid, you can’t get a healthcare opinion without coming into one of the town’s pharmacies unless you head up to the hospital to the sole overworked doctor elected as the manning doctor that weekend.

“Every pharmacist has countless stories of medication mismanagement, unintentional/intentional misuse.

Andrew Douglas, managing Priceline Pharmacy as a family business, has been a pharmacist in Yass for 16 years, along with his brother and dad – who has been a pharmacist for over 50 years, said the 60-day dispensing would be a major issue.

Pharmacist Andrew Douglas (file photo)  took time to speak to the Yass Valley Times today amid a hectic schedule of flu-vaccines and myriad duties for a country pharmacist.

“First of all, the patient is the number one concern. Medication shortages are a massive issue at the moment,” Douglas said.

“For example, we had a 1-year-old child this morning who needed some amoxicillin, which is out of stock. So, we had to call the doctor and work out something else to give him.

“There’s another medication, Ozempic, which has big shortages for diabetics. The government said they’ll get this fixed by manufacturing more medications in Australia, or keeping a bigger stockpile, but they haven’t been able to do that.

“One of the detrimental impacts with having this 60-day dispensing is it will further exacerbate the medication shortages issues.

“Blood pressure tablets is another one that has been in short supply. Another is Warfarin, which is a blood thinner, and if you’re on Warfarin, you’re on it for life.

“Usually people get a 30-day supply and come in every month to get their next lot. A lot of patients are on multiple medications. So, if you had a heart attack, you automatically get put on multiple medications, you need one for cholesterol, one for blood pressure, one to thin the blood.

“For people on multiple medications, if they’re getting 60 days’ supply at a time, they often get changed to other medications.

“For people who aren’t literate in medication management, they’re going to have excess medications at home and you’ve got a greater chance of people stockpiling medication and a greater chance of medication misadventure.

“A lot of a lot of hospital admissions are due to medication misadventure and medication overdoses.”

Charlotte Ransom stressed it was a national issue as well and stated a sudden allowance of a 60-day dispensing is not going to benefit the healthcare of our nation.

“When did a strict 20-day dispense interval that Australia has stood by for the safe, quality use of medicines stop being relevant? When did we say that harmful antidepressants can be given in high quantities? When did our government say the continuity of care to our citizens can be disregarded?

“My town needs all the accessible healthcare it can get. My town needs to know that their pharmacists are going to check in on them in a month’s time when their new medication is giving them adverse events that should not be ignored.

“The fact that their pharmacist has given them a two-month supply means that it’s probably okay and safe. Why else would my pharmacist agree to the bulk supply?”

Ransom also stated that medicines shortages will only increase if the 60-day dispensing is implemented in Australia.

“We are facing the most terrifying medicine shortage we have ever seen,” she said.

“Can we explore the number of medicines currently unavailable and say that these being on a 60-day dispensing list isn’t going to completely deplete all resources we have left?

“While my professional service pharmacy is vaccinating, counselling new medications and injectables, providing sleep apnoea services, dosage administration packs, minor ailment diagnosis and management, wound care services and so on, large pharmacy discounters will be buying out what remains, completely depleting the Yass Valley and surrounds.

“We receive many medicines returned barely used or not used at all due to an unsuitable response or an adverse reaction. The double supply is going to skyrocket this quantity. This is not to the benefit of the taxpayer or the PBS.”

Millers Pharmacy stood proudly in Yass for more than 50 years before Ransom bought the business in December 2021 and rebranded to Capital Chemist, maintaining the same loyal customers to the proud small, local business.

“We’ve only just started. We have beautiful customers and I love my staff, but we won’t survive this in this climate,” Ransom continued.

“It’s already hard to get into doctors, so you come to a pharmacy to ask about your medicines, to get a follow-up every month and making sure it’s right for you and monitoring those adverse effects you might be experiencing.

“People shouldn’t have to push through that. We don’t want to push people to liver or kidney failure. We want to make sure it’s working for you.

“We’re going to be losing that out of the community and putting more pressure on other pharmacies and the nursing home – who are on a very tight thread right now because they are having trouble with the lack of registered nurses.

“We are doing a lot of bulk work for the nursing home, so if we’re not there, that’s going to put even more pressure on them, which means even more pressure on the doctors.

“For some other areas in the pharmacy world, maybe they’ll be okay, maybe they’ll just have to make staff cuts or increase prices, but this is going to close more small businesses in our town.

“It’s going to put more pressure on the healthcare system. This is just more closure for Yass. This is more disappointing to the people who live here that trust us.

“There are people who have been coming here and they brag about coming to the pharmacy for 50 years, we’re not going to be here next year if this continues.”

The 60-day dispensing doesn’t just mean a stockpiling of medicines, but also creates a host of issues with dispensing mandate.

“We currently have 300 molecules out of stock and those are our regular medicines that we have on a day-to-day basis.

“We have a great team and work hard to keep medicines in stock, but there are pharmacies out there who haven’t been able to give antibiotics.

“If we increase the quantity that we have to give someone every two months, then we’re going to deplete those resources that we currently have and no one’s going to be able to get their regular medicines.

“So, I can’t see how that’s saving anybody money when the amount of wasted medicine is going to skyrocket. It does not make any sense. This cannot be the solution to the drug shortage.”

Yass Priceline’s Andrew Douglas said he first heard of the 60-day dispensing proposal about a year ago, but this newest proposal has come out of the blue.

“Each year, the government and the pharmacy world have an agreement over a five-year deal where they talk about services, medications, and the PBS, but this has come out of the blue mid-cycle of this agreement.

“It was only yesterday that we were alerted to it and last night there was a Zoom call talking about it and the impacts it would have on the community.

“I believe that the government may be moving quickly on it, possibly by the next federal budget, which is early May.”

“It’s going to have a large impact on businesses and will affect the services that pharmacies can run. A lot of services we do for free, for example, blood pressure checking.

“If the government is going to do this, the patient is still going to pay the same amount…but then the government doesn’t reimburse us for the dispensing of their medication twice.

“It’s going to impact on the bottom line of pharmacies which, therefore will impact on what services pharmacies will be able to provide. They’d have to review their level of staffing and make cuts.

“Everyone in the industry is really worried. The pharmacy world is quite stressed about these changes coming in, for our patients, our communities and our businesses.”

Tim Warren & Jasmin Jones