Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist July 2013 Contents 18 Australian Pharmacist July 2013 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
BE OUR GUEST
Collaborative ties between GPs and
pharmacists go far to help Close the
By Dr Liz Marles, President of the RACGP
Australia's ageing population is testament to the availability and advances in
medical innovations across the spectrum. From life-saving pharmaceuticals,
cutting edge technologies and early detection programs, the vast majority
of Australians enjoy a high standard of healthcare right across the lifespan.
Or do they?
For years the evidence has clearly
highlighted the significant life expectancy
gaps and poorer health outcomes
experienced by Indigenous Australians
compared to non-Indigenous Australians;
shocking and shaming our national pride.
In 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics
estimated life expectancy gaps were as
wide as 11.5 years for males and 9.7 years
for females.1 Overall, in 2008--09, the
potentially preventable hospitalisation
rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people was 4.9 times the rate for
other Australians.2 Potentially preventable
chronic diseases and injury are conditions
causing the greatest proportion of excess
deaths for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Despite the overall health needs being
higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people, in 2008--09, average
Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)
expenditure per person was $363 for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people and $621 for non-Indigenous
Australians, a ratio of 0.58.4 The average
Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS)
expenditure per person was $250 for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
and $338 for non-Indigenous Australians,
a ratio of 0.74.4
So what can we do to help close the gap?
Pharmacists and GPs have long held
strong professional relationships to
ensure optimal health outcomes for our
patients. Recently the PSA and the RACGP
reaffirmed the strong collaborative ties
between the two professions, signing a
second Memorandum of Understanding
(MoU). Together the two bodies,
representing 37,000 primary healthcare
professionals, have committed to further
exploring the benefits of team-based
care with a united front. With this strong
alliance in place between the two
professions, one clear example of how we
can contribute to the Close the Gap (CTG)
efforts is via the Government's Closing the
Gap PBS Co-payment Measure.5
The Measure, introduced in November
2008, allows GPs who are participating in
the Indigenous Health Practice Incentive
Program (PIP) to prescribe medications
for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander patients at a reduced cost or
free to the patient, particularly those
medications used to treat chronic pain.
GPs can annotate eligible patients'
prescriptions with 'CTG' to indicate that
it is to be dispensed with co-payment
relief. The cost of medications has
been identified as a key factor that
prevents many Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people from obtaining
optimum health care. Medical specialists
in any practice location are also able
to participate, provided the patient is
eligible in the PBS Co-payment Measure,
and has been referred by a medical
practitioner working in a practice that is
participating in the Indigenous Health
Incentive/PBS Co-Payment Measure
under the PIP. Medical practitioners
working in Indigenous Health Services
in urban and rural settings can also
provide eligible patients with a 'CTG'
In August 2012, Australian Doctor6 reported
that, alarmingly, thousands of doctors were
unaware of the existence of the scheme.
The RACGP has continued to work hard to
promote this important initiative to our
members, as well as many other Government
initiatives to support the Close the Gap
efforts. PSA members are also encouraged to
familiarise themselves with the Closing the
Gap PBS Co-payment Measure if they have
not already. Good communication between
the pharmacist and the GP will enhance
uptake of this measure and improve
adherence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Further supporting the value of this
initiative, the College recently called upon
Government in its pre-Budget submission
to continue to expand on proven strategies
that address cost barriers for patients
including the ongoing delivery of the
Closing the Gap PBS Co-payment scheme.
Renewed commitment will enable gains
to continue to be made in prevention and
chronic disease management.
As we continue to work in close partnership
with one another, I look forward to
identifying, promoting and bringing to life
practical examples of best practice in general
practice and pharmacy settings, to produce
improved health outcomes for our patients.
1. At: www.fahcsia.gov.au/our-responsibilities/indigenous-
2. Cunningham J, Rumbold AR, Zhang X, Condon JR. Incidence,
aetiology, and outcomes of cancer in Indigenous peoples in
Australia. Lancet Oncology 2008;9(6):585--95.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics & Australian Institute of Health and
Welfare. The health and welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples 2008, ABS cat no. 4704.0. Canberra: ABS,
2008. Cited Oct 2011. At: www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.
4. Vos T, Barker B, Stanley L, Lopez AD. The burden of disease and
injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2003.
5. Brisbane: School of Population Health, The University of
6. Medicare Australia -- Closing the Gap PBS Co-payment Measure.
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