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Confusion surrounds new bulk-dispensing rules

30 September 2003

Attention: Health Reporters

Confusion surrounds new bulk-dispensing rules for medicines

The Pharmaceutical Society fears that the public could end up paying the full cost of subsidised medicines because of the confusion surrounding new bulk-dispensing rules which take effect tomorrow.

Pharmaceutical Society President Bernie McKone said the new rules were complex and had been introduced by Pharmac in such a rush that there had been no time for doctors and other prescribers to update their software for writing prescriptions.

This was likely to result in confusion when the public went to pick up their medicines from a pharmacy.

“Pharmacists will do their best to help people through this but if prescriptions are written in such a way that they do not meet the new subsidy rules, people will either have to pay the full cost of their medicines or go back to their doctor to get the prescription changed.”

Mr McKone said Pharmac had developed a short-term solution by arranging for computer-generated prescriptions to carry a blanket statement about bulk dispensing that could override the prescribing instructions written by the doctor.

However, issuing prescriptions like this with conflicting statements was likely to add to the confusion rather than solve it as pharmacists are required by law to dispense medicines as the doctor intends for each person.

“This simply places further onus on pharmacists to check every prescription for safety concerns. We can’t automatically assume that the blanket statement, placed there by the computer system, does override what the doctor has instructed.
“The best advice we can give people is to check with their doctor, before they leave the surgery, that their prescription meets the new rules for bulk dispensing.”

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Mr McKone said it would have been better if Pharmac had waited until software changes could be made and tested, and all prescribers – GPs, hospital doctors, midwives and nurse practitioners – had been properly informed about the new rules.

“The Pharmaceutical Society as the statutory body protecting the public interest is disappointed that bulk dispensing has been implemented so hastily with little regard to the legal requirements placed on pharmacists.”

All pharmacists are members of the Pharmaceutical Society.


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