Sunday, April 26, 2015

It Looks Like All Is Not Entirely Kosher With The Way The Pharmacy Guild Has Involved Itself In Pharmacy IT.

This appeared last week:

Pharmacy lobby in conflict row over IT firm’s windfall

A struggling technology business backed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has reaped millions of dollars in government grants intended for pharmacists, fuelling concerns that the lobby group is beset by conflicts of interest as it heads into battle over the next round of funding for the industry.
Fred IT, which was 50 per cent-owned by the pharmacy guild when the federal government’s $15.6 billion Community Pharmacy Agreement was struck in 2010, was one of two private companies to share in a $9.7 million windfall after key funding for pharmacies was later redirected.
The handout was not approved under the original agreement and was made despite the guild previously agreeing that the funding in question — $75.5m to offset pharmacists’ costs of switching to processing prescriptions electronically — be made only to pharmacies.
It also came as Fred IT, which had recently launched a new Prescription Exchange Service for the transfer of electronic prescriptions, known as e-scripts, which was billed as a breakthrough in the fight against prescription forgery, was struggling financially.
The revelation comes as the Community Pharmacy Agreement — a contract between the government and the guild that sets out how much pharmacies are paid to dispense drugs — has ­attracted scrutiny, after an audit report questioned its “value for money’’, potential conflicts of interest and a lack of transparency.
As The Australian reported on Monday, the group has amassed a $6.2m fighting fund ahead of what are widely tipped to be tough negotiations with the government, which wants savings under the next agreement. The current agreement ends on June 30.
Industry groups including the Consumer Health Forum and Professional Pharmacists Australia are concerned about the guild’s roles in the arrangement.
As well as negotiating the Community Pharmacy Agreement, the guild administers programs for the Health Department and receives funds to run professional programs.
Lots more here:
All this fills in rather more of the story with it becoming apparent that the development and implementation of e-prescribing has not gone as well, or been as transparent, as one might expect of an initiative receiving Government funds.
All this follows revelations a week or so ago regarding pharmacists selling patient prescription data. See here:
Additionally we have an Audit report from a month ago regarding how IT usage  payments for e-prescriptions did not seem to go to the pharmacists where it was intended to go - rather than to the Pharmacy Guild for a range of promotional activities and technical interoperability updates.
Here are the detail of what the Auditor General found about six weeks ago.
Overall it looks to me that there is a concerted campaign being run to have the Pharmacy Guild’s horns clipped a bit and to do something about the rather restrictive business practices Pharmacy has been forcing on the public for many years. The Harper review of competition  which was recently released has made it clear they at least think Community Pharmacy is a rather inefficient and provides overly costly service provides in the community. People can make up their own minds about how they view all this, but I certainly get the feeling there is at least some sense that the Pharmacy Guild has used its very considerable background political influence to seek outcomes that may have not totally been in the public interest.
I reckon we might well see some changes in the Budget and in the new (sixth) Community Pharmacy Agreement as a result of the Audit and subsequent publicity.  For more see the commentary in next Thursday’s Budget blog on all this.

Update 9am 27 April, 2015.

According to Fairfax Ms Sussan Ley (Health Minister) has confirmed major changes to the PBS in the 2016 Budget.

See here:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WE should all be congratulating Minister Sussan Ley for grasping the nettle, using her nous and letting it be known that step by step she intends to target rorting and misuse of the PBS. With the Productivity Commission's Report in her hands she has all the authority she needs to drill down into the health system and excise the malignant rorting that undermines the foundations of the PBS.

That the Guild has been permitted to get away with what it has for decades reflects the Guild's enormous political power and its extraordinary capacity to bully Health Ministers, Prime Ministers and other politicians into submission to do its bidding. The Guild will not relent. Every politician will be hearing from it day after day until the 6CPA is signed to the Guild's satisfaction. with a $6M fighting fund at the Guild's disposal the Guild has massive resources which it can deploy to try to shape the outcome as it has managed to do on so many occasions in past elections to the detriment of all but the few powerful pharmacy owners which the guild represents.

Hopefully the Prime Minister will stand shoulder to shoulder with his Health Minister. And hopefully their parliamentary colleagues from both sides of politics will stand behind them and deliver one clear and decisive message to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia ----