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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : May 2008
news and review Pharmacy direct case comes to a head took a new turn last month when the NSW Supreme Court ruled the supermarket giant was in breach of the NSW Pharmacy Act. The case is not over but Justice t Peter Young agreed with the Guild’s claim that the owner’s of Pharmacy Direct, (Coles, now owned by Wesfarmers) had a pecuniary interest in the pharmacy and ‘is not a person who is exempted by any of the provisions of the Act and is acting contrary to the law’. PricewaterhouseCoopers- Legal, partner John Cummings said as Coles acquired its interest in Sydney Drug Stores (which operates Pharmacy Direct) in 2006 it therefore, could not come under the Grandfathered provisions for corporate ownership which applies to shareholders holding interests before 5 October 1990 pursuant to s25(2)(c) of the Act. Mr Cummings said given that Coles had paid more than $48m for Sydney Drug Stores it was likely the case would go to appeal. The case was stood over for three weeks to allow parties to appeal or agree on formal orders ‘by way of declaration... then these should be formulated by the plaintiff [the Guild],’ Judge Young said. At the time of going to press the case was due to be heard again on 24 April. The Guild said it could not comment on the matter. n he longstanding battle to prevent Coles from operating Pharmacy Direct Prevention now, not in 2020 O fficial pharmacy has welcomed the preventative health focus of 2020 health submissions but said it had concerns how the strategies would be funded. The Guild said the summit’s health agenda took a ‘big picture view focusing on preventative health measures’ but in many cases it failed to address existing problems; measures floated to prevent smoking, for example, were ‘extreme’. Guild president Kos Sclavos told the AJP increased taxes on cigarettes would not prevent or even reduce smoking. ‘Funding from increasing taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and junk food actually adds to the problem,’ Mr Sclavos said. ‘If the program is so important it should be funded from budget sources. To explain this point further, many social commentators state that dependence on gambling taxes by state governments has created dependence...where state governments even increase poker machines to raise more taxes. It is vital to fund programs properly. ‘However, none faulted the PBS system or the community pharmacy system under which pharmaceuticals are distributed. Very few other parts of the health system could make that claim.’ The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Brian Grogan said he was concerned about the wording ‘zero tolerance’ concerning unhealthy actions. ‘I believe education is generally a better approach than compulsion and the words ‘zero tolerance’ invite questions about potential policing roles and the role of the state in regulating peoples’ behaviour. ‘The stress on better access for individuals to their health data, and better and more transparent data flows between healthcare players, is something Australia’s pharmacy profession has been pushing for some time. Better access to health data—for example the reason medicines are being prescribed—would allow pharmacists to step up their involvement as part of the healthcare team and better serve the community,’ Mr Grogan said. n scheduling change could herald medication abuse By Jayamala GuPte P harmacy has lambasted the ‘cough mixture’ decision by the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee (NDPSC) saying it could lead to medication abuse. The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Debbie Rigby said many pharmacists would be put in a difficult position trying to guess the age and weight of a child if desperate parents decide ‘to lie about their children’s ages, especially if they are close to two years of age’. Ms Rigby said the move also meant that, in families with ‘multiple kids, a parent may buy a cough or cold product for an older child, but could give it, without proper counselling, to a younger child as well. ‘This is where there is serious potential for medication abuse as parents may misjudge dosages’. The NDPSC viewed that the total body of scientific evidence did not support the use of any over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children younger than two years, and has already advised doctors, pharmacists and caregivers not to administer them to children in this age group. Therefore, all over-the-counter ‘cough and cold’ medicines will have directions for use in children younger than two years (based on efficacy and safety grounds) removed by 1 September. There have also been concerns that the decision has not taken into account Australia’s stringent scheduling system. The sale of pharmacy medicines means there is a legal requirement that patients are counselled prior to purchase, which has prevented adverse events. Pharmacy Guild president Kos Sclavos also said pharmacy would lose money as a result of the change (see his column p20 for more commentary). He said this move was a technical issue as the NDPSC really ‘only made these products S4 because there was no other option under the current scheduling system. The NDPSC have said they want the products removed, not S4. S4 is just a legal move’. Ms Rigby said there was sufficient evidence to suggest a therapeutic benefit from these products for older children. She also advised pharmacists and pharmacy assistants to recommend non-drug remedies, such as saline nasal sprays, to parents hoping to find an alternative product for their toddlers. But Mr Sclavos was not optimistic about the future of these products. He said, ‘if pharmacists can’t sell them, and doctors won’t prescribe them, they will disappear’. n The AusTrAliAn journAl of PhArmAcy vol.89 mAy 2008 5