Community pharmacies have signed off on a new agreement with the federal government which commits almost $100 million to medicine safety over the next year, with older Australians set to benefit.

The $96.4 million covers medication management review and the quality use of medicines programs in residential aged care, home medicine reviews, and one-on-one in-pharmacy medication checks.

These community pharmacy programs are likely to run unchanged next financial year but the agreement flags changes ahead.

The Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA) increases investment in patient-focused pharmacy programs to $1.2 billion over five years, health minister Greg Hunt said.

“Elderly Australians and people with chronic conditions will benefit from this increased investment through simplified and improved community pharmacy medication management and adherence programs, such as dose administration aids and medicine checks,” Mr Hunt said.

The 7CPA is a five-year agreement between the Commonwealth, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and first-time signatory the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis signing the 7CPA with (clockwise from back left) Suzanne Greenwood, Scott Morrison, Trent Twomey, Michael McCormack and Greg Hunt

PSA national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman said the new agreement boosted medication management by $100 million and would support the safe use of medicines, particularly for older Australians.

“This is a forward-looking agreement, flexible in its approach. It provides an opportunity for the implementation of significant policy reforms, particularly in the areas of aged care and mental health that will have a direct impact on patient health outcomes,” he said

Review of residential care community pharmacy programs welcomed

The Commonwealth and the Pharmacy Guild have agreed to update the community pharmacy programs to enhance support for older Australians, such as reviews of psychotropic medications with feedback and medicines education.

And also to invest in medication management and adherence programs to support the implementation of aged care royal commission recommendations, according to the agreement.

Dr Juanita Breen

The agreement also flags an intention to combine the residential aged care medication management review and quality use of medicines programs into a single more efficient and effective program.

Pharmacist and aged care researcher Dr Juanita Breen welcomes an update to these programs.  

“A review of the programs is well overdue given the fact that aged care residents still take over 10 medications daily, that medication related issues are still the number one ranked complaint received by the quality and safety commission, and that many residents are taking inappropriate medication for extended periods of time,” Dr Breen told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“This poor medication management has gone largely unaddressed in spite of the current programs being in existence for over 20 years.

“You have to question how effective they are and what impact they exert,” said Dr Breen, a senior lecturer in the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre at the University of Tasmania.

For example, it is puzzling that nursing staff are not an essential part the current medication review process, which only funds pharmacists and prescribers to be involved, she said.

“We talk up interprofessional working but the nurses and care staff who are on the ground, who know the residents, administer the medication, monitor their effects and often tell residents and families about any issues or changes made, are often effectively bypassed in the process.”

Call to add telehealth to agreement  

Aged care provider peak Leading Age Services Australia welcomed the agreement but said it was disappointing that telehealth wasn’t included.

Sean Rooney

“Telehealth has been approved for use in medication reviews during COVID-19 and appears to have been successful,” LASA CEO Sean Rooney said.

“The use of this technology to support, in particular, rural and remote communities should be offered as an option on an ongoing basis.”

But he said the allocation of $96.4 million for medication management reflected some of the concerns highlighted by the Royal Commission.

It was essential that this funding continued to increase to cater to the growing ageing population, Mr Rooney said.

The agreement signed on 11 June comes into effect on 1 July and will remain in place until June 2025.

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