Two recent developments have caught the attention of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
One is the RACGP’s endorsement of a boost in government funding for pharmacies, and the other is the green light for the use of psychedelic drugs in treating certain mental health conditions.
Both of these developments could influence the healthcare landscape in Australia.
RACGP Backs Increased Funding for Pharmacies
The RACGP has expressed its support for recent measures aimed at enhancing the financial stability of community pharmacies. From 1 July, pharmacies, particularly those serving rural communities, have been benefiting from a doubling of the Regional Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance (RPMA) and a 7% increase in dispensing fees.
The RPMA, which supports pharmacies in outer regional, rural, and remote communities, has been raised to $39.8 million. This means pharmacies in towns with a population of 15,000–50,000 are now receiving a base rate of $6000, up from $3000. Pharmacies in very remote communities have seen the biggest increase, with their allowance going up to $69,860.
In addition, a 7% rise in fees for dispensing PBS medicines has also been implemented. According to government estimates, this increase will provide an additional $41,000 per year for the average metropolitan pharmacy, and over $43,000 for pharmacies in large regional centres.
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy for Mental Health Conditions
However, this decision has sparked controversy due to the limited data available on the effectiveness and safety of these medicines. Treatment with both medicines must be provided in combination with psychotherapy. The exact mechanism through which psychedelic medicines alleviate the symptoms of severe PTSD and depression is still largely unknown.
Administering these medicines, which significantly alter a patient’s state of mind, must be done in a highly controlled and safe environment. This requirement presents a major logistical and financial challenge for both treating physicians and patients. Patients must be in a supported clinical space for the duration of their sessions, which may last up to eight hours.
To summarise, the increased funding for pharmacies and the introduction of psychedelic-assisted therapy are significant changes in Australia’s healthcare landscape. As these changes unfold, it’s important for General Practitioners and other healthcare providers to stay updated and adapt to these new practices.