Ban on sale of homeopathics in shake-up of pharmacy rules

New rules on how complementary medicines are sold including a ban on homeopathic medicines are part of a proposed shake-up of pharmacy regulation.

The interim report for the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation recommends a raft of changes aimed at improving consumer access to medicines.

While largely welcomed by consumer advocacy groups, there are concerns some recommendations could make medicines more expensive.

Finding consumers may be being misled about their effectiveness, the report suggests a clamp down on how complementary medicines are sold in pharmacies.

Most consumers don’t know these products are not TGA assessed for efficacy and their presence on pharmacy shelves may ‘give rise to unsubstantiated expectations’ that they work.

The report recommends banning PBS-listed pharmacies from selling homeopathic products, given an NHMRC review has concluded there was no evidence they worked for any health condition.

Complementary medicines should be displayed away from pharmacy-only and pharmacist-only medications, with signage that ‘clearly references any limitations on the medical efficacy of these products noted by the TGA’.

But the impact of this signage requirement would be limited because the TGA does not make recommendations about the efficacy of complementary medicines, said Associate Professor Ken Harvey, from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.

Arthritis Australia CEO Ainslie Cahill welcomed the move to improve the transparency of information about complementary medicines – something it has long advocated for.

She said people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions were major users of complementary medicines. About 60% of people try a range of products in an effort to gain relief from their chronic pain and disability.

“We welcome this step but wish to be assured that additional, evidence-based information will be passed on to vulnerable consumers,” Ms Cahill said.

The report also recommends changes that would influence the cost of PBS-listed medicines. It calls for abolition of the dollar-discount policy, which allows pharmacies to charge up to $1 less per script.

Also slated are new rules to fix ‘confusing’ price discrepancies – when pricing for the same medicine varies dramatically between pharmacies.

Consumers would pay either the co-payment set by the government ($6.30 concession or $38.80 general) or the dispensed price, whichever is the lower, and a  pharmacy ‘should have no discretion to either raise or lower this price.’

Arthritis Australia and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia both believe the reforms could increase out-of-pocket costs for some consumers.

The report is open for consultation until July 23.

Read the full report: here

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