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Pharmacists and Novel Coronavirus Covid-19

As Australia’s largest and longest running Pharmacy Recruitment Agency with over 30 years’ experience, we will do everything in our power to support our community of Pharmacy's and Pharmacists as they remain a pillar of strength through this crisis.

This is a constantly evolving situation so this page will receive regular updates as more information becomes available.

There are dedicated webpages of respective Departments of Health that are regularly updated:

Content Index



From Pharmacy Daily on 7th May 2020:

Pharmacy vital for Governments

Governments around the world are being urged to rethink their use of the community pharmacy sector within their health systems as part of future strategies to tackle pandemics.

A paper released by the World Pharmacy Council (WPC) titled Pandemic preparedness - optimising use of the pharmacy network noted that “early learnings” from the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the need for guidance on how best to use pharmacies “as a vital part of the support network”.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, there has been widespread but belated recognition of the vital role in the delivery of health care services that pharmacies play,” the WPC said.

“Many health systems have hastily adopted measures to allow pharmacies to extend their contribution to coping with the demand on health services, but lack of advance preparation has led to delays in implementing measures that can provide an important contribution to managing the crisis and the prevention of new COVID-19 cases.

“There is a need for a greater focus by states on reducing preventable hospital presentations by allowing pharmacists to adopt their full scope of practice.

“Take this opportunity to rethink and reshape healthcare systems, namely through the integration of community pharmacy in the planning and delivery of health services, using their services to the full, and expanding their role and responsibilities, based on the learnings of the pandemic.”

The paper noted that while many primary care providers switched to telehealth, community pharmacies around the world remained open to patients “for immediate advice without the need for appointments”.

The WPC, which is led by Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President, George Tambassis, also called on governments to engage community pharmacies early in crisis situations to manage demand for medicines and other health products, while also empowering pharmacists to offer therapeutic substitution in the event of medications shortages.

The organisation also flagged concerns that a number of countries did not include community pharmacies when distributing personal protective equipment in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get the full story, and read more.



From Pharmacy Daily on 7th May 2020:

COVID 'a chance to be our best': SHPA

Amid the disruption and uncertainty pharmacists are dealing with, the COVID-19 pandemic is providing the profession with an “opportunity to be the best we can”, Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) National President, Peter Fowler, believes.

Writing in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research, Fowler described the crisis as “a once in a professional life-time challenge”, noting “our pharmacy departments have had teams broken up and separated... our roles and tasks have changed... some are assisting to establish a ventilator capacity in hospitals that have never managed this level of acuity before”.

“Against this backdrop, the SHPA has swung into action, with a near‐total operational pivot toward ensuring our hospitals, and our hospital pharmacists, are resourced in every way conceivable for the months ahead,” he said.

As part of its response Fowler said the Society had opened up its special COVID-19 webinar series to non-members to ensure the free flow of vital information in the interest of patient care, with the sessions thus far attracting delegates from around the world.

Fowler also noted the launch of the SHPA’s COVID-19 Hospital Pharmacy Relief Register, to support understaffed hospitals during the crisis.

“Of course, this is only the beginning,” he said.

“Just as we are in for the long haul living under new transmission mitigation measures, and as the pressure on hospital staffing, medicines supply and resources will be high for a considerable time to come, SHPA is steadfast in its commitment to our members, their colleagues and the Australians in their care.

“It is my great honour to lead an organisation that has embraced the challenges posed by this pandemic,” Fowler said.

Get the full story, and read more.



From Pharmacy Daily on 6th May 2020:

Retailers set out post-COVID protocol

RETAIL groups, including the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, have come together to release a Retail Recovery for COVID-19 protocol aimed to support the reopening of more stores as restrictions are eased in the coming weeks.

Developed by the Guild, the Shopping Centre Council of Australia (SCCA), National Retail Association (NRA), Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) and the Australian Retailers’ Association (ARA), to give employees and customers confidence that retail environments will continue to follow stringent public health guidelines in a less restricted environment.

Guild National President, George Tambassis, said the organisation would, “continue to work closely with the shopping centre industry to ensure a united and collaborative approach”.

The new protocol outlines a series of steps retailers can take including:

  • Making alcohol-based hand sanitiser available at key locations such as store entrances, building entrances, customer service desks and food courts, 

  • Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of regularly used objects and hard surfaces (e.g. payment registers, EFTPOS machines, hand-rails, bathroom door handles, shelves, shopping trolleys, counters and benches, food-court tables, staff-rooms) and other key hygiene measures (e.g. waste disposal).

  • Facilitating and encouraging social distancing and public gathering limits in accordance with Government directions, which is currently a distance of 1.5m and a limit of no more than one person per 4m2 in stores. Actions could include signage ‘reminders’, one-way queueing, ground markings (e.g. stickers or tape) for customer queues.

  • Daily check-ins with staff on their well-being, ensuring staff and contractors are properly trained and have access to relevant information and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The coalition of retailers has also issued a call for the public to treat retail workers with respect while they continue to service and ensure the community has access to essential and other retail goods and services.

Get the full story, and read more.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 1st May 2020:

'Tokens' would give patients control: MedAdvisor

A MedAdvisor spokesperson has refuted the Pharmacy Guild’s suggestion that the “token” system for e-Scripts would spark problems.

On Thursday the Pharmacy Guild warned that the planned fast-tracking of electronic scripts would cause “unnecessary chaos,” arguing the “token” model being pursued by the government would interrupt administrative and clinical workflow for prescribers and pharmacies.

“The COVID –19 emergency has already seen significant rapid changes introduced to address the need for self-isolation and telemedicine, including prescriptions being sent as a photo image by email, facsimile and in some States text message, directly from prescribers to community pharmacies,” the Guild said.

“The high number of prescriptions being dispensed through these telehealth measures demonstrates that patients are continuing to have ready access to their medicines without the need, at this stressful time, for a token-based electronic prescription which would severely test pharmacy systems and cause confusion and potential medication misadventure for many patients, particularly the elderly and chronically ill.

“From the pharmacy patient perspective, the electronic prescription token system is not suited to patients on multiple medications and will cause further disruption and confusion, especially for those patients not familiar with the required technologies to manage their multiple ‘tokens’.

But Robert Read, CEO of MedAdvisor, says that the token system would solve several problems including the use of obsolescent systems such as faxes.

“With the rise of telehealth during this COVID-19 pandemic, prescribers have needed to send digital images of scripts directly to pharmacies via fax or email, which adds significant administrative burden for both prescribers and pharmacies, and poses the risk of prescribers channelling patients to specific pharmacies,” Mr Read said.

“The introduction of ePrescriptions will solve these issues and put the control back in the patient’s hands.

“Tokens represent a simple and secure way for patients to receive and manage their ePrescriptions, and can be made available within 1-2 months.

“These have been actively worked on by industry working groups and the Government to ensure they meet the appropriate privacy and security standards. They are also the backbone of the Active Script List and therefore necessary.

“From a patient perspective, tokens are similar to paper scripts but accessed digitally via SMS, email or mobile application, thereby minimising the risk of confusion and medication misadventure.

“The tokens can be uploaded into a consumer app such as MedAdvisor, and then organised in a script wallet that can be easily sent right to a pharmacy’s dispensing workflow. This removes faxes, emails and other disruptive processes that pharmacists are currently experiencing with digital image dispensing.

“For pharmacists, processing of tokens will be similar to paper scripts, meaning minimal change and disruption to current workflows.”

The Guild had recommended that the alternative model known as the Active-Script List be prioritised, saying that “it best supports a patient’s access to their medicines via electronic prescribing and best enables the community pharmacy to support this access.”

Mr Read said that tokens and the ASL will eventually co-exist.

“However, there are many privacy and security considerations for ASL and a significant amount of workforce training, planning and testing required before it will become available.

“MedAdvisor is keen to support these initiatives and ensure the appropriate diligence is put in to ensure peoples’ privacy and security expectations are met.”

Get the full story, and read more.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 1st May 2020:

Built-in flexibility

Government moves to temporarily ease PBS authority restrictions during pandemic crisis.

The Australian Government is implementing a temporary measure that allows flexibility around PBS restrictions for eligible PBS medicines to ensure continued treatment during the COVID-19 crisis.

From 1 May when a treating medical professional considers that a patient taking an eligible PBS medicine should be exempt from any specific Authority Required PBS restriction, a request for exemption for that restriction requirement will be able to be lodged with Services Australia (Medicare).

This request can be submitted if the medical professional considers that they patient may otherwise be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, or the restriction cannot be completed due to social distancing or isolation requirements.

The request for exemption needs to be included with the authority request through the normal process.

Among the medicines included are: Adalimumab, Lenalidomide, Montelukast, Riociguat, Somatropin and Tadalafil

“This measure will only apply to continuation prescriptions for patients who have previously received a script for the eligible PBS medicine, and all other PBS restriction criteria that are not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will still apply,” the PBS release says.

It is a legal requirement that the prescriber note the reasons for the proposed waiver and how it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some examples of situations that may result in the prescriber seeking the exemption include:

  • a patient not being able to attend an outpatient clinic to perform a test, because the patient is required to quarantine, 
  • where a prescriber considers it would not be appropriate for an immunocompromised patient to attend a clinic for a consultation and the information cannot be obtained in a telehealth consultation.

This measure is being implemented based on the advice of the expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The measure will be repealed by 30 September 2020.

The full list of eligible PBS medicines is available here.

Get the full story, and read more.



From Pharmacy Daily on 1st May 2020:

Fast-tracking e-scripts unnecessary

MOVES to accelerate the introduction of electronic prescriptions could cause “unnecessary chaos” the Pharmacy Guild of Australia warns.

In a statement released yesterday, the Guild said the “rushed introduction” of the system as a part of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 National Health Plan would be “a backward step for patient care at exactly the wrong time”.

“The Guild cannot support the introduction of a measure that will impose further significant disruption at a time when community pharmacies are already under intense pressures to support their patients during COVID-19,” a spokesperson said.

“The proposed fast-track introduction of the ‘token’ model for electronic prescriptions is the wrong move at a time when the system and pharmacy network is clearly not ready and experiencing unprecedented challenges.

“The untested system, under which prescriptions would be conveyed by ‘tokens’ sent to patients by text or email, presents unnecessary risks to patient care and will impose unwarranted disruption to the administrative and clinical workflow of both prescribers and community pharmacies already having to adjust to new arrangements in support of the COVID-19 National Health Plan.

“The COVID-19 emergency has already seen significant rapid changes introduced to address the need for self-isolation and telemedicine, including prescriptions being sent as a photo image by email, fax and in some States text message, directly from prescribers to community pharmacies.

“The high number of prescriptions being dispensed through these telehealth measures demonstrates that patients are continuing to have ready access to their medicines without the need, at this stressful time, for a token-based electronic prescription which would severely test pharmacy systems.

“From the pharmacy patient perspective, the electronic prescription token system is not suited to patients on multiple medications and will cause further disruption and confusion.

“This is why the Guild has recommended, through the Electronic Prescribing National Change and Adoption Working Group, that the alternative model known as the Active-Script List be prioritised as it best supports a patient’s access to their medicines via electronic prescribing and best enables the community pharmacy to support this access.”

Get the full story, and read more.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 30th April 2020:

5 Things Pharmacists Need to Know About Telehealth

A brief summary of advice from leading pharmacists on the telehealth changes that have recently occurred.

Due to changes passed this month in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, eligible patients are now able to access medication reviews from a pharmacist via video or teleconference.

Accredited pharmacists are also allowed to provide two additional follow-ups for Home Medicines Reviews (HMRs) and Residential Medication Management Reviews (RMMRs) with patients within nine months of the initial review.

On Wednesday, the PSA conducted a webinar on telehealth hosted by national president Chris Freeman, lead 7CPA negotiator Shane Jackson and pharmacist Nicolette Ellis. You can listen to the full webinar here.

Here are five top pieces of advice from the broadcast:


  1. Discuss the appropriateness of a telehealth consult.

  2. Remember to gain and document informed consent.

  3. Familiarise yourself with the program rules, and the professional guidelines for service delivery.

  4. Be aware of privacy considerations.

  5. Check your indemnity insurance covers telehealth consultations.

See more information about telehealth on the PSA website and the PPA website.

Get the full story, and read more.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 29th April 2020:

Pharmacists urged to download COVIDSafe

Around 2.8 million Australians have downloaded the COVIDSafe app, and the PSA’s national president urges pharmacists to follow suit.

At a doorstop interview at the Rosebud Respiratory Clinic in Victoria on Tuesday, federal health minister Greg Hunt told reporters that the new COVIDSafe app has been added to Australia’s existing repertoire of containment and the program testing for the novel coronavirus, which has to date conducted almost 530,000 tests.

He said that the states and territories had done a “fantastic” job of contact tracing.

“The app has now been added to that, and the advice I have is that as of 12.30 today, an extraordinary 2.44 million Australians have downloaded and registered for the COVIDSafe app.”

On Wednesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press conference that around 2.8 million Australians had now downloaded the app.

In his message to members, PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman said that the organisation is proud to have joined with 11 peak health organisations, including the Pharmacy Guild, in supporting COVIDSafe.

The organisations issued a statement over the weekend urging the general public to download the app, and also thanking them for “their help in protecting each other and our doctors, nurses, carers, pharmacists, allied health professionals, dentists and support staff through their support for the difficult but life-saving social distancing measures”.

“As a unified voice, we join with the health minister and the health care community to support and approve the COVIDSafe app as a critical tool in helping Australia fight the COVID-19 pandemic, protect and save lives,” Dr Freeman wrote in his message to members.

“Downloading the app to helps protect you, your colleagues, other health professionals, carers and support staff. This will help us protect you and help you protect us.

“Community privacy concerns regarding the app are understandable. I have been reassured by the unprecedented privacy protections provided by the Human Biosecurity Emergency Determination, and in particular the tight sole-purpose provisions.

“I have downloaded and activated the COVIDSafe app to my smartphone, and encourage you, your family, colleagues and patients to do so too.”

He later told the AJP that, “Accelerating contact tracing will help slow the virus from spreading and also protect the lives of pharmacists and pharmacy staff who are currently on the front-line and at risk of coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

“Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic pharmacists have continued to adapt in order to keep themselves and their patients safe and having as many Australians as possible downloading the COVIDSafe app is just another measure to ensure this continues.”

A spokesperson for the Guild said the organisation was “supportive and encourage downloading by all”.

On Tuesday Minister Hunt praised Australians’ efforts to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and highlighted that in the 24 hours to 6.30am Tuesday morning, there had been only 12 new cases identified, only one of which was from unknown sources.

“So, only one case of community transmission across Australia,” said the Minister.

“That is perhaps the most important figure I have had the privilege of raising since coming into this role and dealing with the coronavirus issue.

“It means that as a country we are not just flattening the curve, but we are consolidating it, extending it and securing it.”

Concerns around security have been raised in regard to the app, as well as concerns that people with iPhones need to keep the app open at all times with the device’s power saving mode on.

Meanwhile on Tuesday reports circulated that hoax texts were being sent to users that the COVIDSafe app had noted that the user was more than 20km from their home address – and that they were now expected to contact the Government within 15 minutes and explain themselves.

Mr Hunt said that the case had been referred to the Federal Police for investigation and that anybody found to have been responsible will “be charged with a significant criminal offence”.

“This is about life and death. This is about saving lives and protecting lives,” he said.

“And so, whoever it is, they should be afraid of the law, because they are conducting a hoax which is about a very serious public health matter.

“But more than that, they should stop and think. It’s no game, because the more people that are able to download and register, the more people who will be protected against inadvertently contracting a life-threatening disease.”

Get the full story, and read more.



From Pharmacy Daily on 29th April 2020:

Profession critical to disaster planning

COMMUNITY pharmacists need to be actively involved in national disaster planning and recovery efforts going forward, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia believes.

In its eight-page submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, the Guild made a number of recommendations, including a call for the expansion of Continued Dispensing and complementary emergency supply arrangements to be made a permanent feature of the Australian health system, and the “immediate inclusion of a community pharmacy representative in future national disaster response and recovery working groups, and incident/ emergency operations centres as required”.

The organisation also noted that “pharmacists should be appropriately recompensed for coordinating urgent medicine supply arrangements in emergencies, and this should be considered in any Commonwealth and State/Territory emergency management planning”.

The Guild added was committed to working with other healthcare professionals, stakeholders, community organisations, and all levels of Government in Australia to improve safe and quality healthcare services and health infrastructure that aim to support all Australians, including in times of crisis or disaster.

“The 2019-20 bushfire season caused significant damage and disruption, and the health system was under increased strain,” the submission states.

“Pharmacists, as frontline health professionals, played a vital role in ensuring patients received the medication and advice they needed to get them through the crisis, often under stressful, trying and difficult conditions and circumstances.

“In order to help shape future national natural disaster planning, preparation, response and recovery efforts, we need to better utilise all the features of Australia’s health system, including community pharmacists.”

Get the full story, and read more.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 28th April 2020:

Digital Image-based Scripts for SA

South Australia is the latest jurisdiction to allow pharmacists to dispense medicines without a hard copy paper script.

Pharmacists in South Australia have been given the go-ahead to supply prescription medicine without a hard copy paper prescription during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state joins NSW, Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria in making the change.

Legality to supply medicines with a digital image is ongoing under existing ACT and Northern Territory legislation, with rules for supply under the PBS provided through Commonwealth legislation.

Therefore Queensland is the only jurisdiction still working to make regulatory changes to support the PBS Special Arrangement for digital image prescriptions. Currently, a digital image of a prescription is not a valid prescription in Queensland.

South Australian State Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the temporary change to medicines regulation allows for the use of digital image-based prescriptions and thus supports safe and convenient healthcare for vulnerable patients.

“Many patients who would usually see their doctor in person to collect a paper-based prescription are now making use of telehealth appointments to receive medical care in the safety of their own home,” Minister Wade said.

“Now South Australia has approved a temporary exemption to the Controlled Substances Regulations that will also enable patients to have their prescriptions filled without leaving home.

“This special arrangement means prescribers can send the patient’s pharmacist a digital image of the prescription – for example, by emailing a scanned copy – with no need to provide the original paper prescription at all.

“The pharmacist can then fill the script and deliver the medicine to the patient at home.

“National changes enacted by the Commonwealth ensure that prescriptions filled this way remain eligible for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“Those in our community who are most at risk from exposure to coronavirus, such as older persons and people living with chronic medical conditions, are best protected by staying at home and not mixing with others in a doctor’s waiting room or pharmacy.”

SA Health Interim Chief Pharmacist Naomi Burgess said the special arrangement is in place until 30 September 2020 to support the increased use of telehealth due to COVID-19.

“This new method of prescribing is not mandatory but will be a useful tool for the many healthcare professionals who are now offering their patients Medicare telehealth services,” Ms Burgess said.

“It also supports pharmacists and consumers to observe safe practices by allowing a pharmacist to supply medicines without acknowledgment of the patient where it is impractical for them to sign the prescription, for example due to infection control.

“Prescribers should check with the patient’s pharmacy about how they would like to receive a digital image, noting that email, fax and text messages are all acceptable options.

“Pharmacists are obliged to confirm the bona fides of the prescription, including that it has been written and sent by an authorised prescriber.”

After NSW and WA joined Victoria in making similar changes, PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman called for all jurisdictions to do the same and said that pharmacists were confused and frustrated over the matter.

“I am getting an enormous amount of feedback, concern and frustration from you all on the issue of digital image prescriptions and the increasing confusion, workload and stress that this measure is causing,” he said in mid-April in a message to members.

“There is particular confusion given the Australian Government factsheets did not effectively communicate that state and territory regulatory changes were required prior to supplying of medicines under this arrangement become lawful,” said A/Prof Freeman.

“Many of you from all around Australia are being left in a quandary and are stuck in the middle between the federal legislative instrument and the state and territory regulations.

“This is causing profession-wide confusion, greater workload and more administration at an already frantically busy time.” 


From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 27th April 2020:

Script Substitute

Government releases details on proposed pharmacist medicine substitution process, but concerns are raised that it’s “too complex, too slow”.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has released details on the Federal Government’s plan to allow community pharmacists to substitute specific medicines without prior approval from the prescribing doctor.

However, the PSA has said it is “disappointed with the proposed model”, with its national president, Associate Professor Chris Freeman, saying the proposed model is “too complex” and “too slow”. 

The substitution will apply in “certain situations where a medicine is unavailable at the time of dispensing”.

“The changes will allow a pharmacist to dispense different strengths of a product (such as two 20 mg tablets in place of a 40 mg tablet) or a different dose form of the same medicine (such as a capsule instead of a tablet),” the TGA advice states.

“It will also allow a medicine that is prescribed as an extended/sustained release medicine to be substituted for an immediate release medicine, or vice versa.

Substitution of a medicine with another product containing a different active ingredient is not considered”.

Medicines identified for substitution will be communicated in a Serious Shortage Substitution Notice on the TGA website. Notices will tell the pharmacist which medicines are allowed to be substituted. Click here to see a proposed template for the notice.

Serious shortages would be characterised by:

  • strong evidence of an imminent (within coming weeks) gap in supply; and

  • the expectation of significant and immediate negative health consequences if patients went without the relevant medication at the prescribed intervals.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when domestic transport services are more limited, in some cases a Serious Shortage Medicine Substitution Notice may be declared when there is a significant local-level supply disruption of medicine (not a national-level shortage) and its supply cannot be replenished in that region before patient access is affected, the TGA stipulated.

In all cases, notices will apply Australia-wide.

PSA had previously expressed concerns about the therapeutic substitution proposals, and they remain concerned about the model now more detail has been revealed.

Get the full story, and read more.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 17th April 2020:

Telehealth for Pharmacists given go-ahead

Pharmacists will be able to undertake MedsChecks, Diabetes MedsChecks, HMRs and RMMRs via telehealth from next week, the Federal government has announced.

Eligible patients will be able to access medication reviews from a pharmacist via video or teleconference from Tuesday 21 April, the Federal Government said on Friday.

The measure was passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as people are increasingly staying indoors to avoid exposure and enact social distancing.

Those who are most at risk from complications of the virus – the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – are also those most likely to be on a number of medications and in need of management and review by a pharmacist.

PSA National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman said the new telehealth provisions will ensure those most vulnerable in the community will be able to remain isolated but still receive vitally important medicine reviews such as MedsCheck, Diabetes MedsCheck, Home Medicines Review or Residential Medication Management Review.

“Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists are adapting and innovating to ensure they continue to provide the best healthcare for their communities,” he said.

“Allowing medicine reviews via telehealth whether it be on videoconference or teleconference is a commonsense decision made by the Government to ensure Australians continue to receive the support and medicine safety information they need without the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“This announcement also helps reduce the risk to pharmacists, who now no longer need to deliver essential comprehensive medication reviews face to face and run the risk of getting contracting COVID-19 themselves.”

The PSA says it has developed support materials to help pharmacists provide medication reviews in the new telehealth format, and will publish updates to the Program Guidelines early next week.

A/Prof Freeman said the PSA, which had been advocating for the telehealth changes over the past few months, will also continue to push the Government to remove the cap on HMRs.

“Currently pharmacists can provide just one HMR per patient every 24 months with similar restrictions imposed on RMMR and MedsCheck programs and I am calling on the Government to allow pharmacists to be able to perform additional follow-ups as clinically necessary,” he said.

“In a time where so much attention is given to managing the immediate COVID-19 pandemic, we must also not lose sight on the importance of chronic disease management and the safe and quality use of medicines.”

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) also welcomed the ‘telepharmacy’ consultations as an important move to protect the health and safety of Australians receiving medicines advice in isolation, or providing and receiving care in hospitals.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels said the measure both supports medicines safety and reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“In March, on behalf of our members and their colleagues working at the COVID-19 coalface in our hospitals, SHPA called for regulatory change to allow consultant pharmacists to check-in on vulnerable Australians without face-to-face visits,” Ms Michaels said.

She said the announcement “that these critical programs can utilise telehealth technology as an emergency measure will ensure their continuation – essential to supporting optimal use of limited hospital beds – while removing risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission between health practitioners and Australians managing their medicines at home.”

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From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 17th April 2020:

Position vacant: Chief Pharmacist needed

What has Covid-19 shown us? One thing it reveals is Australia’s glaring need for a Chief Pharmacist, says Karalyn Huxhagen.

For me the biggest and most complex issue that has been highlighted (and it is an age-old issue) is that we need an Australian Chief Pharmacist and we need a national system of legislation.

When I joined PSA in 1981 we had this state by state issue with legislation that affected our ability to change regulations and policy. Every state had an overriding jurisdiction that differed so no matter what we passed as National law the states could meld to their own legislation.

It did my head in then, it did my head in when we were writing the Competency Standards and it has done my head in when we wrote legislation in relation to Immunisation, Dispensary Technicians, Scope of practice, Opioid replacement therapy, dispensing and recording Pharmacist Only medications and so much more.

In recent years it has caused havoc in times of natural disaster when legislation has been invoked for Continual Dispensing and individual states had to enact the legislation within their own regulations.

As a locum I must allocate an area of my brain to remember what I can and cannot do in each state. Locums are very mobile plus we now have large pharmacy companies who move their staff around Australia. You have no idea how hard it is to remember what you can and cannot do in each state and territory.

This issue also impacts on how you teach undergraduates and interns. The graduate may attend a university in one state but then go on to practice in another state. As teachers we must be cognisant of the diversity in legislation and teach this diversity to graduates and interns.

Now we have COVID-19, which is producing a huge change management shift in practice for how pharmacists work in the middle of the supply chain between prescriber and patient.

The Australian Government Department of Health has released very helpful material e.g. Fact Sheet for pharmacists on Interim arrangements for prescriptions for supply of medicines: Supporting telehealth patients and healthcare professionals. Like all pharmacists I was excited to receive this communique then my head went into a spin when I was told it only was current for Victoria and the rest of the states would need to amend their current legislation to allow this to be functional.

GPs do not have these barriers why do we?

Can we not enact legislation and have the Federal Health minister use the current pandemic legislative powers to tell State Health departments this is now National law until 30th September 2020? The work arounds and the ‘yes buts’ are stretching our already frayed mental capacity to a point of complete disintegration.

Pharmacy is one of the most over regulated professions. We need to appoint an Australian Chief Pharmacist and we need to move to Federal legislation. If there ever was a more pressing time to make this system function far better than it ever has it is NOW.

Karalyn Huxhagen B Pharm  FPS AACPA is a consultant pharmacist in Queensland

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From Pharmacy Daily on 17th April 2020:

Telepharmacy to combat medicine-related harm

Pharmacists will be able to provide medication review services over video or teleconferencing platforms from 21 Apr, as part of the Federal Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move will ensure vulnerable patients, who are eligible for a medication review under one of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA) programs (MedsCheck, Diabetes MedsCheck, Home Medicines Review or Residential Medication Management Review) can receive the pharmacist-delivered support while remaining isolated from COVID-19.

Welcoming the move, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) National President, Dr Chris Freeman, said it would protect patients and pharmacists during the pandemic, having flagged the possible shift to telepharmacy during a webinar earlier this week, as reported by Pharmacy Daily.

“Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists are adapting and innovating to ensure they continue to provide the best healthcare for their communities,” he said.

“Allowing medicine reviews via telehealth whether it be on videoconference or teleconference is a commonsense decision made by the Government to ensure Australians continue to receive the support and medicine safety information they need without the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“This announcement also helps reduce the risk to pharmacists, who now no longer need to deliver essential comprehensive medication reviews face to face and run the risk of getting contracting COVID-19 themselves.”

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From Pharmacy Daily on 17th April 2020:

Staffing fax now critical to pharmacy

Monitoring incoming faxes has never been more important following the introduction of bulk-billed telehealth consultations, TerryWhite Chemmart Professional Practice Manager, Chris Campbell, believes.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) Queensland Branch President, told a COVID-19 webinar on Wed night, that pharmacies needed to consider dedicating a staff member to process faxed scripts as they arrived, following a surge in their use.

“Some of our pharmacies are doing 80% of their volume just in fax prescriptions,” he said.

“If we went to the week prior to the legislation changing and allowing bulk-billed telehealth consults, on average [we were getting] one to three a week, to some of our pharmacies getting 200 to 300 faxes a day.

“The best pharmacies have assigned someone as their role to receive those [faxed scripts].

“What they do is as soon as they receive a fax they’re calling the patient immediately - if the patient’s contact details are not on the prescription they’re calling the surgery and saying, ‘please any faxes that you send to us on any scripts we need the patient’s contact details’.

“The reason why this has been so important is, whilst there have been some products like hydroxychloroquine and salbutamol, that we’ve had a lot of trouble getting in, some of our out of stocks have only been [for] one or two days, but we may not have had it on that specific day, and that person is able to get ahead of it.”

Campbell said that while it had been “okay” to leave faxed scripts until a patient arrived in the pharmacy, “now it’s at a volume where you can’t afford to do that”.

He told delegates listening to the webinar that manning the fax machine would allow pharmacy staff to get in contact with patients when they might still be with the prescriber, which may help sort out issues around the prescribing of products that are expected to be out-of-stock for the long-term.

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From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 14th April 2020:

'Profession-wide confusion' over handling of digital scripts

NSW, WA join Victoria in allowing pharmacists to supply medicines using digital images of scripts, but PSA shares pharmacists' frustrations with the measures.

WA doctors and other prescribers who conduct a telehealth consultation can now send a digital image of the prescription to the patient’s preferred pharmacy, to authorise dispensing.

Under normal rules, a prescriber must send the patient’s hard copy paper prescription to a pharmacy to allow dispensing by the pharmacist.

Effectively immediately from Saturday 11 April, the WA Chief Health Officer approved the emergency notice under the Public Health Act to amend prescription rules for telehealth consults conducted during COVID-19.

Upon receiving a digital image of a prescription from the prescriber, pharmacists in the state can now dispense the prescription and supply the medicine to the patient “without delay,” says the WA Department of Health.

Both the prescriber and pharmacist will still need to keep full records. This temporary arrangement will remain in place until 30 September 2020.

The arrangements are intended to complement special arrangements recently announced by the Commonwealth Government, that allow supply of PBS medicines through a digital image.

Meanwhile from Friday 17 April, doctors and nurse practitioners in NSW will be able to send digital images of prescriptions to pharmacists via email or fax.

NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the state’s rule only allowing scripts to be sent by email or fax rather than via text to a pharmacist will stop potential prescription forgery and diversion to the criminal supply chain.

“These changes are designed to make accessing your medications easier and safer, particularly for those in the community with chronic conditions,” Minister Hazzard said.

“It ensures people with compromised immune systems will not need to go to the doctor’s surgery in person and can get their script entirely through a telehealth appointment.”

NSW branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, David Heffernan, welcomed the changes and thanked the government for its “tireless” efforts during the COVID-19 health crisis.

“Telehealth has imposed extra challenges in pharmacy, so this will help alleviate some of those,” he told AJP.

“We’re getting overloaded with faxes and emails. This allows us to dispense medications with the image as a script, without the paper script being sent anymore.

“Each state and territory will have to do their individual part in getting the changes through. Ultimately it’s good for pharmacists and the patients, and it’ll prevent double handling and improve claiming times as well,” said Mr Heffernan.

He noted that GPs must send prescriptions to the pharmacy, and not to the patient.

Victoria was the first jurisdiction to pass the emergency measure allowing digital scripts alone, after the Federal Department of Health announced the new special arrangements.

PSA national president Chris Freeman applauded Victoria’s leadership, as well as the changes in WA and NSW, and called for all remaining states and territories to follow suit “as a matter of urgency”.

However he expressed frustration on behalf of pharmacists across the country.

“I am getting an enormous amount of feedback, concern and frustration from you all on the issue of digital image prescriptions and the increasing confusion, workload and stress that this measure is causing,” he said on Tuesday in a message to members.

“There is particular confusion given the Australian Government factsheets did not effectively communicate that state and territory regulatory changes were required prior to supplying of medicines under this arrangement become lawful,” said A/Prof Freeman.

“Many of you from all around Australia are being left in a quandary and are stuck in the middle between the federal legislative instrument and the state and territory regulations.

A/Prof Freeman had previously spoken to AJP about pharmacists being sent scripts by fax or email, with some GPs expecting pharmacies to then pick up the paper scripts or supply funds themselves to have them posted.

In some cases there has been a “complete lack of clarity” on where the script should be sent, with some patients being given the digital copy of the script.

Additionally there have been cases of GPs forwarding images of scripts in states and territories that have not yet passed the appropriate legislation.

A/Prof Freeman said he has made representations about these issues with both the Department of Health and Minister of Health’s office.

“I have made it clear that it is unacceptable that pharmacists are expected to break the law to provide patients with their medicines,” he said.

“GPs are heeding Commonwealth advice that they can send prescriptions electronically without forwarding a hard copy, with the legislation in the states playing catching up.

“PSA is working with the state and territory governments to accelerate this as quickly as possible in a way to minimise the additional burden this has caused you all. We understand what the Government is attempting to do in keeping the community safe – but this has to be done in a way that does not expose pharmacists to professional risks from being forced to break the law.”

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From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 14th April 2020:

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Pharmacy groups welcome Queensland government moves that increase the options available to pharmacists to support patients during the pandemic.

Both the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and PSA have welcomed a series of measures announced on the Easter long weekend by the Queensland government which give the state’s pharmacists a number of new options to provide medicines to those impacted by the ongoing pandemic. 

Some of the measures announced have not yet been seen in other states and territories.

Changes to the Drug Therapy Protocol includes adjustments to the Communicable Diseases and Pharmacist Vaccination Programs. These provide greater scope for pharmacists to administer vaccinations and prescribe certain medicines to patients, if a prescriber is unavailable.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is also developing a protocol enabling pharmacists to supply alternate medicines to a patient if supplies of a usual medicine are unavailable due to drug shortages caused by the pandemic.

Patients will also be able to receive a maximum PBS quantity or pack size without a prescription, where the pharmacist is satisfied there is immediate need, usually a months’ supply for most medicines.

PSA Queensland President Chris Campbell congratulated the state government for making these “necessary changes that will assist pharmacists in providing necessary care to their patients and the community”.

“PSA fully supports and thanks the Queensland Government for this common-sense approach that will provide certainty to patients who cannot access their medicines due to the impact of COVID-19 or might be worried about a certain medicine being out of stock,“ he said.

“Queensland is the first state or territory to enable pharmacists to implement the TGA therapeutic substitution protocols when they are released.”

“Dispensing therapeutic substitutions to patients is well within the current skillset of every pharmacist in Queensland and it is very important we continue to work with the Government and TGA to ensure there is as little bureaucratic red tape as possible and patient care and safety are paramount.

Queensland Guild President, Trent Twomey, said the changes are instrumental in protecting vulnerable community members during a time when they are most at risk.

“Sharing the load between trained primary healthcare professionals will be essential during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“It’s going to be a marathon and we need to work together to support Queenslanders. These Drug Therapy Protocol changes help to increase healthcare access for the community…”

The Queensland Government also announced that pharmacists will be able to administer the meningococcal vaccine to children aged 10 and older (previously 16 and older) as well as allowing Queensland pharmacists to be the first pharmacists in Australia to provide the Pneumococcal vaccination.

Mr Campbell said as part of these announcements by the Health Minister Steven Miles, community pharmacists will also be able to administer the COVID 19 vaccination when it is available, another Australian first.

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From Pharmacy Daily on 14th April 2020:

NSW to accept e-scripts

Pharmacists in NSW will be allowed to dispense medicines using email or fax copies of the original prescription from 17 Apr, under measures announced by State Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, on Sun, as part of the State’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The move follows similar authorisation announced by the Victorian Government last week (PD 08 Apr), but will exclude scripts provided in text message format, to prevent potential fraud and diversion of medicines.

“These changes are designed to make accessing your medications easier and safer, particularly for those in the community with chronic conditions,” Hazzard said.

“It ensures people with compromised immune systems will not need to go to the doctor’s surgery in person and can get their script entirely through a telehealth appointment.”

Welcoming the announcement, Pharmacy Guild of Australia NSW Branch President, David Heffernan, the move would help maintain access to medicines throughout the pandemic.

“This is very important to maintaining supply in the pharmacy industry,” he said.

“But also in maintaining social distancing. It’s also important to note that scripts will not be filled if they are sent from a GP to the patient, it must be from the GP to a pharmacy.”

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From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 9th April 2020:

All States and Territories should follow 'as a matter of urgency'

Emergency order enables Victorian pharmacists to supply S4s using digital images of scripts alone, reducing burden of having to organise or receive paper scripts.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has made an emergency order that aligns with Federal special arrangements allowing GPs to send digital images of scripts directly to a pharmacy, if the patient is at risk of the COVID-19 virus.

Schedule 8 and 4D medicines are excluded from the arrangement and, under the Federal rules, prescribers are only allowed to send the digital image of the script to the pharmacist or pharmacy of the patient’s choice.

However the Victorian emergency order goes one step further, removing the requirement for GPs to then provide the original paper script to the pharmacy.

Previously the Federal Government advised prescribers to send the pharmacy the paper script as soon as possible, where possible, as e-prescribing has not yet been rolled out or legislated at a state and territory level.

This meant some GPs were “expecting the pharmacies to manage coming to pick up the scripts or supply funds themselves to have the scripts posted,” PSA national president Chris Freeman told AJP, leaving pharmacies with “significantly larger amount of work” to do than before.

It also posed an issue for pharmacies’ cash flow, particularly if medications had to be dispensed as script owing.

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From Australia Post on 8th April 2020:

Pharmacy home delivery service now available

Following the Australian Government's announcement to allocate $25 million to fund home medicine services in the wake of COVID-19, Australia Post, in association with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has announced the launch of its Pharmacy Home Delivery Service.

You can offer free delivery on prescriptions to customers, taking advantage of the recently announced increased Australian Government rebate. The initiative incorporates Australia Post's contactless delivery in line with current COVID-19 guidelines.

This delivery option will support vulnerable Australians, including those: 

  • isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner
  • over the age of 70
  • with chronic health conditions

The initiative allows vulnerable members of the community to receive medication and other essential supplies (under 500grams) through Australia Post's Express Post network¹, once a month, and pharmacies can receive the full cost back through government rebate.

Other delivery options are also available, which can be viewed after completing the registration process. To send, you can drop your parcels directly into a street Yellow Posting Box or at a Post Office.

Your customers will receive delivery notifications to help them track the progress of their delivery – and you'll be able to check the delivery status of your parcels through the MyPost Business dashboard. 

Click here to get started.

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From Pharmacy Daily on 8th April 2020:

ACT expands vaccination scope

Pharmacists in the ACT will be authorised to administer the MMR vaccine and also provide influenza vaccinations to pregnant women and children age 10 years and older, under provisions to be announced today.

The Territory Government's move to reduce age limits on pharmacist-administered flu vaccines has been welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. 

Guild ACT Branch President, Simon Blacker, described the decision as "timely" given concerns over the potential for this year's flu season to coincide with the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a positive and timely step ahead of what threatens to be another bad season for influenza,” he said.

“With the public health focus squarely on COVID-19, it is very important that as many people as possible in the ACT are protected against contracting influenza so that they are fit and healthy as we strive to minimise the impact of COVID-19."

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From National Covid-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce on 7th April 2020:

National clinical guidelines launched for COVID-19

A large coalition of peak Australian health professional groups has come together to develop new “living guidelines” that will provide world-first, continually updated evidence-based guidance to clinicians caring for people with COVID-19.

This innovation has been developed under the auspices of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce. The new Taskforce has been convened by the Australian Living Evidence Consortium which is based at Cochrane Australia in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. Teams of researchers, experts and clinicians have been working around the clock to deliver national guidelines for the clinical care of people with COVID-19 across primary, acute and critical care settings.

Chair of the Taskforce, Associate Professor Julian Elliott, says Australia’s world-leading efforts in generating ‘living’ clinical guidelines in areas like stroke and diabetes have now pivoted to focus wholly on helping clinicians manage COVID-19.

“There is urgent need to arm Australia’s healthcare professionals with evidence-based guidance about how best to care for people with COVID-19. These will be ‘living guidelines’, updated with new research in near real-time in order to give reliable, up-to-the minute recommendations to the clinicians during this unprecedented health crisis. These guidelines will help our frontline clinicians treat COVID-19 with confidence, knowing that their approach is backed by evidence and the very latest research from around the world,” said Professor Elliott.

Using ground-breaking evidence surveillance and automation technologies, the Taskforce will identify and summarise global COVID-19 research findings and feed this evidence to guideline panels every week, drawn from across Australia’s clinical and consumer communities. The results will then be delivered into the hands of clinicians at point of care. This will provide a trusted ‘single source’ of advice to help inform clinical decisions.

“This is about ensuring that Australian clinicians are supported at the front line with the right information. There is a lot of conflicting advice circulating and not all of it is based on good quality evidence. We can leverage our world-leading technologies and our partnership with the globally trusted Cochrane network to make sure Australian healthcare professionals have the very best information at their finger-tips,” said Professor Elliott.

The Australian Government has announced that it will provide funding to support the Taskforce, together with contributions from the Victorian Government, the Ian Potter Foundation and the Walter Cottman Endowment Fund managed by Equity Trustees.

The guidelines will form a key part of Australia’s response to COVID-19 and are available via www.covid19evidence.net.au.

The initial focus of the guidelines will be on:

  • Definitions of disease severity

  • Monitoring and markers of clinical deterioration

  • Antiviral medications and other disease modifying treatments

  • Respiratory support 

The Taskforce will now be working weekly with its members, partners and other stakeholders to monitor emerging evidence and expand the scope of the guideline recommendations in response to the most pressing needs of clinicians seeking to provide the best possible care during the pandemic.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 6th April 2020:

Rural Pharmacists want one-Pharmacy town guarantee

What happens if a team member tests positive for COVID-19? Keeping the pharmacy doors open in a rural or remote town will be no easy task, says advocacy group.

Pharmacy owners in rural and remote areas are asking the Federal Government for support amid growing concerns about how residents in one-pharmacy towns will access medications and care if the pharmacy is forced to close.

Under guidelines from the Communicable Diseases Network Australia being used by State Public Health Units it seems highly likely that smaller pharmacies where a team member tests COVID-19 positive will lose all staff members for up to 14 days, possibly longer, explains the Rural Pharmacy Network Australia (RPNA).

“There are over 750,000 Australians living in approximately 350 rural and remote communities across Australia that have only one pharmacy,” says RPNA.

“Some of those towns do not have a medical centre and their residents have no easy alternatives if they lose their pharmacy.

“This will be devastating for any pharmacy affected and in rural areas it will leave entire communities without a pharmacy service.”

Just a few days ago, National Pharmacies issued a statement confirming reports an Adelaide store employee contracted COVID-19.

This employee was directed to recover in isolation at her home. In addition, a further 15 employees who worked with her are in isolation at the direction of SA Health and are also being tested for COVID-19.

The store was forensically sanitised overnight by specialist cleaners immediately after National Pharmacies was informed and within one day had been re-staffed by team members from other stores.

However in rural and remote areas, the possibility of re-staffing a pharmacy in the wake of a team member being diagnosed with COVID-19 poses a monumental task.

“Pharmacy owners will have a choice of closing down until sufficient staff can return to work, or finding the extra funds to cover the cost of a locum pharmacist plus critical support staff such as pharmacy technicians and assistants,” explains RPNA.

“The extra costs of keeping the doors open for two weeks in these circumstances could easily run to $11,000, or even more.”

RPNA says this is “simply too great a cost” for small pharmacies, many of which are already struggling.

They would be financially much better off to close, leaving their community with no pharmacy at all, says the group.

“While GPs have been thrown a so-called ‘700-million-dollar lifeline’ to deliver telehealth services during this crisis, none of the Federal Government measures announced so far provide any assurance for rural pharmacies to ensure service continuity if any team member in a one pharmacy town is diagnosed as COVID-19 positive and has to self-isolate,” says RPNA, adding this would most likely lead to the self-isolation of a whole pharmacy team.

It calls for a guarantee that the government will cover all out-of-pocket pharmacist locum costs and the cost of support staff to ensure rural and remote pharmacies can provide continuity of care.

“This will provide the assurance that vulnerable communities desperately need as they brace themselves against the impacts of this pandemic,” says RPNA.

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From Pharmacy Daily on 6th April 2020:

ACCC moves to support supply

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has granted interim authorisation permitting Medicines Australia (MA) and the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (GBMA) to discuss and implement strategies to support the continued supply of medicines, during the COVID-19 crisis.

MA CEO, Elizabeth de Somer, welcomed the announcement.

“[The] authorisation underscores the importance of an integrated supply chain for our medicines,” she said.

“And I thank the GBMA for working alongside us in addressing the challenges we now faces as a result of COVID-19.”

The authorisation came into effect on Friday, and follows a similar move for wholesalers.

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From Pharmacy Board (AHPRA) on 3rd April 2020:

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) where possible

The COVID-19 emergency is impacting on registered health practitioners’ CPD in various ways, including where CPD events or leave are cancelled. The Board encourages practitioners to continue CPD relevant to their practice where possible. In responding to the needs of the public during this emergency, pharmacists are likely to encounter issues that require investigation, research and learning and these efforts can be documented for inclusion in CPD records. Further information about recording CPD activities is outlined in the Board’s Guidelines on continuing professional development.

We do not want CPD requirements to take practitioners away from clinical care or cause additional concerns to practitioners already under extra pressure due to COVID-19. Accordingly, if a pharmacist can't meet the CPD standard because of the COVID-19 emergency, then we won't take any action for the registration period during which the COVID-19 emergency is in force; there will be no need to apply for an exemption.

However, if the COVID-19 emergency resolves more quickly than expected, we may issue updated guidance about what CPD the Board would expect to be completed within the current registration period.

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From Pharmacy Daily on 3rd April 2020:

ACT announces emergency dispensing measures

Pharmacists in the ACT will be able to dispense maximum quantities of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listed medicines to patients without a prescription under emergency measures announced today. 

The move will ensure patients who may not be able to access their usual prescriber, receive a month's supply of a previously prescribed PBS medicine where the pharmacist is satisfied there is an immediate need.

The measure, which has been introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, brings the ACT into line with other states and the Northern Territory, where pharmacists have been granted the authority to dispense in emergency circumstances, and will remain in place until 30 Jun. 

The Territory's Government had implemented a similar authority in January to support patients impacted by the bushfire crisis, however, that measure expired on 31 Mar.

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From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 3rd April 2020:

Call for 'zero tolerance' of Pharmacist abuse

Physical assaults escalate with one pharmacist punched in the face over tissue boxes, as patient association calls for authorities to crack down on ‘reprehensible’ behaviour

The Australian Patients Association (APA) has called for a zero-tolerance approach from authorities for people who abuse and threaten pharmacists and other healthcare workers who are already under tremendous stress in caring for patients impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

APA Chief Executive Stephen Mason said a small section of the community were putting sick patients lives at risk by hoarding basic medications and abusing pharmacy staff and nurses for simply doing their jobs to protect patients.

“In the case of pharmacists, we’ve heard reports of people getting abusive at staff because pharmacies had sensibly introduced limits in an attempt to stop customers stockpiling prescription medications and stripping their shelves of painkillers, cold and flu tablets, hand sanitiser, toilet paper and asthma medication,” Mr Mason said.

“What these people fail to realise is that hoarding of medicines or stripping pharmacy of basic health items was putting the lives of medically compromised Australians at risk.”

Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, shared shocking stories of abuse against pharmacists in recent weeks.

“Unfortunately there have been instances of physical assault on pharmacy staff that have included a pharmacist being punched in the face trying to prevent an individual hoarding boxes of tissues,” he told AJP.

“There have also been reports of individuals throwing stock at pharmacy staff, in some cases actually striking them and causing injury requiring further medical attention.”

He added that in another case, a person threw stock at a pharmacist but missed and struck another person, with patients then becoming “collateral damage”.

“These particular people need to understand that pharmacy staff on the frontline are doing their absolute very best to meet the needs of their communities and their patients. They are people too and have families to go home to,” said Mr Tassone.

“The government directives to stay home unless you otherwise need to attend to essential business should give these individuals an opportunity to stay home and have a good hard think about how they’re behaving during times like this,” he said.

“There are things we don’t have control over, but what we do have control over is our behaviour towards others.”

Mr Tassone told fellow pharmacy staff that if there are concerns over a physical assault or other threatening situation, they should not hesitate to involve the police.

Meanwhile he urged any pharmacists enduring mental health concerns and stress to contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service, which he said “provides a fantastic and essential service of over-the-phone confidential support”.

“Pharmacy staff should not feel that they need to tolerate any abusive behaviour. We are turning up every day providing an essential service and doing our best for the public but we must feel safe,” he said.

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From Pharmacy Daily on 1st April 2020:

No end date for SA emergency dispensing authority

Pharmacists in South Australia will be able to dispense emergency supplies of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) quantities of prescription medicines to patients without a prescription until the end of the COVID-19 crisis, under measures announced today. 

The State Government moved to extend provisions announced during the bushfire crisis in January and will ensure access to essential medications for patients across the state, where a pharmacist is satisfied there is an immediate need. 

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) SA/NT Branch President, Robyn Johns, welcomed the decision, which bring the state into line with other jurisdictions that have announced emergency dispensing measures.

"PSA fully supports and thanks to the SA Government for this very sensible approach which will support patients continued access essential medicines,” she said.

“GPs across SA are under extreme pressure and this measure will provide certainty to patients who cannot access their usual prescriber due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“As the peak national body for pharmacists, PSA has called for and worked with the SA Government to allow the continuation of emergency dispensing that was put in place during the recent bushfire crisis to ensure patients and members of the community continue to gain access to much-needed medicines.”

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From Pharmacy Daily on 31st March 2020:

Hunt approves pharmacist substitution

Community pharmacists now have the authority to substitute dose strengths or forms of medications, without prior approval from the prescribing doctor, under emergency measures announced by the Federal Government.

Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, also announced the extension of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidy access for medicines supplied under emergency provisions, which had previously been announced during the bushfire crisis, and had been due to expire today, as part of the Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decisions have been welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, with National President, George Tambassis, praising Hunt for acting to ensure patients have access to critical medicines when they might not have a prescription.

“This means pharmacists can continue to support our patients through this health crisis, and they aren’t hit with any additional or unnecessary costs during such a stressful time,” he said. 

Tambassis added that the ability to substitute medicines would "help pharmacists across Australia to manage medicines for patients". 

"Australians need reassurance we’re on the frontline caring for them," he said.

"This decision by Minister Hunt means pharmacists have a greater ability to care for our patients.”

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From Pharmacy Daily on 30th March 2020:

Meds delivery fee upped

Pharmacies that offer to deliver prescription medicines to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic will now receive $7.77 per delivery from the Federal Government, as part of its $25 million Home Medicines Service funding package.

Having originally allocated a $5 rebate for the service, the Government increased the fee to match the $7.77 cost of using Australia Post’s new contactless pharmacy home delivery service, which was launched on Sat.

Speaking on the Super Radio Network this morning, Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President, George Tambassis, said the service would provide a courier platform to pharmacies that have not previously been offering home delivery, as they work to meet the needs of patients during the ongoing crisis.

“We worked really closely with the team at Australia Post to make it as easy as possible for pharmacies to use Australia Post if it suits them,” he said.

Get the full story, and read more.

The Pharmacy Home Delivery Service Terms and Conditions are available here at AusPost. For further information on this service, pharmacists can contact Australia Post via pharmacysupport@auspost.com.au.

The Australian Government’s COVID-19 Home Medicines Service Program that provides eligible pharmacies with a fee of $7.77 per delivery for the home delivery of PBS/RPBS medicines to eligible patients once per month is administered by Pharmacy Programs Administrator.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 27th March 2020:

WA Extends Emergency Provisions

WA has joined NSW and Victoria in implementing emergency supply provisions in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

Western Australia’s Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Robertson declared that effective from Thursday, pharmacists may dispense prescription medications, subject to certain conditions.

These include that:

  • the pharmacist is satisfied the person is in immediate need of the medication for the continuation of treatment
  • that the medication has been prescribed to the patient previously
  • that it is not practicable for the patient to obtain a repeat prescription from a GP or other authorised health practitioner.

Dr Robertson declared the temporary provisions under the Public Health Act 2016.

They will remain in place until 31 May 2020, at which time they will be reviewed and, if necessary, extended.

The arrangements cover all prescription medicines except controlled drugs. 

Dr Robertson said the new arrangements have been introduced in acknowledgement of the difficulties that patients could encounter trying to get GP appointments during the current crisis, particularly at a time when they were also being asked to remain at home.

Dr Robertson stressed that this was not an opportunity for patients to stockpile medications.

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From Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) on 26th March 2020:

COVID-19: Your Questions Answered

Watch a replay of the COVID-19: your questions answered webinar recorded on 25 March 2020. PSA members are encouraged to self-record CPD to their CPD plan after viewing this webinar.



From Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) on 26th March 2020:

'UBER' for Pharmacy Delivery Services Expedited

MedAdvisor has fast-tracked support for pharmacies to offer home delivery, allowing patients to order, pay and request transport of medicines, with a metro partner in the works.

Australian digital medication management company MedAdvisor has announced it is fast-tracking the roll-out of the initial phase of its delivery service.

The expedited first phase of the service, launched on Thursday, will allow patients to order, pay and request delivery of their medication all from within the MedAdvisor app, supporting pharmacies to offer home delivery.

The company’s customers comprise 60% of Australian pharmacies including TerryWhite Chemmart and Amcal. Meanwhile over 30% its app users are over 60 years old and may be at higher risk if they were to contract COVID-19. Therefore providing a full remote medicines toolkit is critical, says MedAdvisor.

As part of the COVID-19 package announced on 10 March, the Federal Government pledged $25 million to deliver much-needed medications to those at risk in the community, at $5 per delivery to participating pharmacies.

MedAdvisor says its software will also facilitate the pharmacy’s ability to claim this funding for delivery services.

Meanwhile the second phase of its program will see MedAdvisor’s third-party delivery provider Kings Transport fulfilling delivery requests in metro areas by mid-April. This capability is currently part of a pilot program in Brisbane and is scheduled to be rolled out across all other metro regions within the next three weeks.

All products, including prescription, OTC, front of shop and NDSS, can be ordered for same-day delivery, with pharmacies having discretion over certain medication which they may deem unsuitable or delivery. Temporary measures are in place to provide no-contact delivery to avoid unnecessary contact with vulnerable patients.

A survey conducted by MedAdvisor showed approximately 82% of pharmacies already do their own version of delivery.

Over the past two weeks, the company has seen 2500 pharmacies (approximately 75% of their engaged pharmacies) activate pay-in-advance functionality, allowing patients to pay for their order in the app. This is the precursor for home delivery, says the company.

Get the full story, and read more.



From Prime Super on 26th March 2020:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Access to financial support

Federal and state governments have announced measures to support individuals, families and businesses that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. One of these measures is an early withdrawal from your super in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Government Financial Assistance

We’ve put together a summary of the coronavirus economic response for our members below, including links to the government websites outlining the financial assistance packages available to individuals and businesses. Much of the support will automatically be applied if you meet the criteria. For other initiatives, such as small business loans, much of the red tape will be cut for you.


Support for individuals

Support for businesses

  • Boosting cash flow for employers
  • Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses
  • Increasing the instant asset write-off
  • Backing business investment
  • Supporting apprentices and trainees
  • Support for immediate cash flow needs for SMEs

Get the full story, and read more.



From Pharmacy Daily on 26th March 2020:

WA and Victorian governments permit emergency supply

Schedule 4 medications able to be supplied by pharmacists in Victoria and Western Australia without a script under certain conditions. 

Special authority for emergency supply by pharmacists of prescription medicines has been allowed in Victoria and Western Australia, in moves hailed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

In Victoria permission has been extended until 27 September 2020, while in Western Australia the new emergency supply provisions apply until 31 May 2020.

Patients will be able to receive a maximum PBS quantity or pack size, in cases where the pharmacist is satisfied there is immediate need, as part of Government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The medicine must have been previously prescribed and be for the continuation of current essential treatment, where it is impractical to obtain a prescription.



From the NSW Government on 25th March 2020:

The NSW Government announced that all NSW Pharmacy Stores will be able to operate 24 hours per day, 7 days a week until the Covid-19 crisis is over. Other Governments may follow.

Supermarkets and pharmacies will be able to operate around the clock in NSW to guarantee communities have access to essential goods at all times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 today enabled Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes to issue his first order to override normal planning controls restricting hours of operation.

The changes will be in place until the crisis is over. The order is available on NSW Planning’s website at: www.planning.nsw.gov.au/COVID19

Whilst it’s a positive move to assist the public access essential medicines, it invariably will put added pressure on Pharmacists to work longer hours and in doing so, themselves be exposed to greater stress. It’s a time that Pharmacists, just like all healthcare workers need to take additional steps to look after their health and wellbeing to ensure Australia has as many functional Pharmacists in this national crisis... Read more.



From Pharmacy Daily on 25th March 2020:

NSW extends emergency dispensing authority

Pharmacists in NSW will be able to dispense maximum Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) quantities of prescription medications to patients without a prescription until 30 September, under measures announced by the State Government today.

The move came in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and extends the special authority granted to pharmacists during the bushfire crisis earlier this year, which was due to expire on 31 March.

Before dispensing, pharmacists must be satisfied there is an immediate need for the medication, and where it is impractical to obtain a prescription, the medication must have been previously prescribed for the patient.  

Welcoming the decision to extend the emergency prescribing measures, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia NSW Branch President, Peter Carroll, said the announcement was "very sensible". 

"We are hearing from patients that their GPs are overwhelmed and it can be difficult to get an appointment," he said.

"This flexible approach to health care will ensure pharmacists can continue to support the community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”



From Pharmacy Daily on 23rd March 2020:

Welcome to Pharmacy Daily’s weekly comment feature. This week’s contributor is Heidi Dariz, General Manager, Raven’s Recruitment.

Weekly Comment: Key staffing management

As pharmacies brace for the impact of Covid-19 over the coming months, owners and managers need to be making a plan now as to how they ensure their duty of care to their staff during these challenging times.

Make sure all staff have 100% clarity of workplace health and safety procedures and policies. WorkCover Queensland have some great FAQs available.

One of the first issues to consider, is what happens to your entire staff if one member becomes unwell? Should you now be running several teams of staff, who are not in direct contact with one another, to ensure that if they are required to self-isolate, your entire staff are not affected.

Increased workloads will be inevitable, so you need to ensure staff are not at risk of burning out. In addition, staff are facing increasing abuse from stressed and upset customers, so ensuring you have appropriate referral systems and resources for mental health services will be vital.

Pharmacies will need a pool of casual staff who are available to step in at short notice. On a positive note, we have seen an amazing response from our locums, some even coming out of retirement, offering their services to pharmacies in need.

For more information, contact us.



From Pharmacy Daily on 19th March 2020:

Government restricts prescriptions to one month supply

Panic-buying prompts new restrictions on prescription medicines. 

Australia's deputy chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, has just announced new regulations which restrict the dispensing of prescription medicines to just one month's worth of supply.

Kelly said despite there being no significant medicine shortages in Australia, stockpiling and panic-buying was putting a major strain on supply chains.

Pharmacists are also being told to limit purchases of common OTC items such as paracetamol and Ventolin to one per person.

"We have today worked through with pharmacists that they will be required to limit dispensing of certain prescription products to one month's supply at the prescribed dose," Kelly said.

He also said pharmacies will be required to place children's paracetamol formulations behind the counter "to assist in allocating supply".



From the Pharmacy Guild of Australia - VIC Branch on 16th March 2020:

Advice for Pharmacy staff

Anyone who works in healthcare (including pharmacies) and has been overseas should not attend work for 14 days since leaving that country.

Any pharmacy worker who has returned from any overseas travel and becomes unwell should seek appropriate medical attention to determine whether testing for COVID-19 is required.

Any pharmacy worker who has compatible illness, whether having travelled internationally or not, should seek medical attention for consideration of testing for COVID-19.

Suspected cases notified to the department with be prioritised for urgent testing at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory.

Suspected cases must self-isolate at home until provided with their test result and follow all medical advice.

If you are in any of the risk categories and begin to feel unwell and develop a fever or shortness of breath, a cough or respiratory illness either during your period of isolation (self-quarantine), or in the 14 days since arriving home from international travel or coming into close contact with a confirmed case, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Call ahead to your GP or emergency department and mention your overseas travel before you arrive at the doctor’s office so they can prepare appropriate infection control measures.

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance and tell the operator your recent travel history.

Patients who have symptoms compatible with COVID-19 may present to a screening clinic.



From the Pharmacy Guild of Australia - VIC Branch on 16th March 2020: 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 of a staff member of a pharmacy, is there a need for the pharmacy to close for trade for a period of time? Would there be a disinfection process?
A: There is no requirement for the pharmacy to close. Any potentially contaminated surfaces should be cleaned with an appropriate cleaning product, such as household disinfectant or diluted bleach solution. Regular pharmacy cleaning should be maintained. The staff member and any close contacts* need to isolate themselves and seek medical advice as appropriate. A combination of these actions may require temporary closure.

*Close contact means at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact or the sharing of a closed space for more than two hours with a confirmed case.
**Casual contact is a person having any face-to-face contact or sharing of a closed space with a confirmed case for less than two hours.

Q: If there are suspected cases of COVID-19 amongst pharmacy team members, is there a way that they can be tested in an expedited way given their important role on the front line?
A: Suspected cases involving healthcare providers notified to the department will be prioritised for urgent testing.

Q: Do we have any information on referral pathways for potential COVID 19 patients for pharmacies?
A: If a person presents to a pharmacy with symptoms compatible with COVID-19, whether having travelled internationally or not, they should seek medical attention for consideration of testing for COVID-19. The pharmacist having knowledge regarding local healthcare resources should refer patients as appropriate. Referral to a general practitioner or screening clinic would be appropriate for a patient who is unwell. The patient would need to call ahead if attending a general practice but there is currently no need to call ahead to attend a screening clinic. A patient who is very unwell may need to call ahead and attend an emergency department or if critically ill may need to call 000.

Factsheets for suspected cases, confirmed cases, close and casual contacts, along with home isolation guidance are available from the department’s novel coronavirus website at https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/health-services-and-general-practitioners-novel-coronavirus.


Workplace Relations advice for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia members

For Workplace Relations advice specific to COVID-19 visit https://www.guild.org.au/resources/business-operations/COVID-19-Information or call 03 9810 9999.