4 pharmacy changes coming into effect

Mid-winter will be a busy time of year for pharmacists, with a range of practice, fee and career pathway updates kicking off on 1 July 2024.

Australian Pharmacist takes a look at the changes pharmacists will experience from next week.

1. Vaping ban comes into effect

The third tranche of vaping reform included in the Therapeutic Goods and other Legislation (Vaping Reforms) Bill 2024 will see all vape sales banned from general retailers from 1 July. Passing through the Senate this morning, the Bill limits the supply of all vapes strictly to community pharmacies from Monday.

These vaping products must adhere to quality and product standards including:

  • plain packaging
  • mint, menthol and tobacco flavours only
  • controlled nicotine concentration levels.

But a last-minute amendment to the bill will see this regulation shift 3 months down the track.

From 1 October 2024, nicotine vaping products will be downscheduled to Pharmacist Only Medicines (Schedule 3), leaving little time to transition these retail products to pharmacist-prescribed smoking cessation tools.

PSA has consistently called for strong action to address the public health crisis that vaping has become, said PSA National President Associate Professor Fei Sim.

While this is not our preferred model, PSA remains firm in the belief that something needed to be done to prevent another generation of Australians becoming addicted to nicotine and experiencing the health consequences of vaping, she said.

Once legislation has passed both houses, our focus will be firmly on supporting pharmacists through these changes.

2. ACOP program commences

The long-awaited aged care on-site pharmacist (ACOP) program is finally set to begin.

Under Tier 1 of the Measure, which starts on 1 July, aged care providers can work with a Section 90 community pharmacy to provide an on-site pharmacist to a residential aged care facility (RACF).

In accordance with the Tier 1 program rules, released yesterday by the Pharmacy Programs Administrator (PPA), Section 90 community pharmacies must employ on-site pharmacists as full-time, part-time, contract or casual employees to work in half day (3.8 hour) or full day blocks. A salary or payment agreement will need to be negotiated with the on-site pharmacist that aligns with the Measure funding.

The pharmacy must ensure the on-site pharmacist adheres to both the eligibility criteria and program rules at all times when participating in the Measure, overseeing their clinical work to ensure it’s in line with the role description and the Aged Care Quality Standards.

The ACOP program is pivotal moment for medicine safety in aged care. An outcome of the work of pioneering pharmacist over many pilots and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, ACOP will see pharmacists take a much stronger leadership role in the use of medicines in aged care facilities – including clinical governance leadership – in addition to medication management reviews and staff education.

The program rules have clarified that time on-site in the aged care facility is one providing services regarding medicine management at the facility. Activities such as administration of vaccines through NOPVIP of CVCP cannot be undertaken during ACOP service hours.

To participate in the program, on-site pharmacists must:

  • have a valid credentialed pharmacist number from an Australian Pharmacy Council accredited ACOP training program
  • only work at a RACF under the measure that has agreed to terminate QUM/RMMR service agreements
  • keep a weekly timesheet and activities summary that is signed by the RACF representative.

The full list of Tier 1 rules and regulations is available on the PPA website.

3. 8CPA begins

The 8th Community Pharmacy Agreement (8CPA), signed last month, officially starts next week. Community pharmacies will recieve a boost in fees, including:

  • annual CPI indexation of PBS dispensing fees
  • additional AHI payment – the Additional Community Supply Support Payment – paid to community pharmacies when dispensing 60-day prescriptions.

Community pharmacies will also receive funding for programs such as:

  • dose administration aids (DAAs)
  • MedsChecks
  • diabetes MedsChecks
  • staged supply
  • Regional Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance Programs.

‘The funding committed by the Albanese government in the 8CPA is positive for community pharmacies and will result in more accessible care for patients through a strong, thriving and viable community pharmacy network,’ said A/Prof Sim last month.

4. DAA access widens

As part of the government’s Cheaper Medicines Initiative, announced during the 2024–25 federal budget in May, funding will come into effect from 1 July to improve access to DAAs. 

This will allow the service cap to increase from 60 to 90 DAA services per community pharmacy per week.

‘Measures like lifting the cap on DAAs … are a step in the right direction, ensuring that support is rightly focused on priority populations,’ said A/Prof Sim at the time.