Easier access to medicines for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people

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The Royal Australia College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcomes changes that will expand the range of health professionals, who are able to register eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to a program that affords access to cheaper medicines.

New changes are being made under the Close the Gap (CTG) Prescriptions Benefits Scheme (PBS) Co-payment program.

Under these changes, any PBS prescriber or eligible Aboriginal Health Practitioner can register eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the program.

“Expanding access to Closing the Gap scripts for all patients regardless of where they live, where they got the prescription from and their chronic disease status will make a real difference,” says Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Faculty and Wiradjuri man, Professor Peter O’Mara.

“Previously, it used to be that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had to sign up but now the process has been made simpler and less centralised.

“Under these changes, people who fall under the program can go anywhere to access cheaper medicines – it is much more straightforward and that can only be a good thing.

“At the end of the day, if we want to get serious about addressing health disparities affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, we need to pursue practical initiatives just like this. If we can increase access, we can encourage preventative healthcare and enhance wellbeing.”

Professor O’Mara notes some of the issues that have arisen from implementing the program.

“I am already hearing reports from the pharmacy sector about issues … including problems with communication with pharmacies.

“It is not my place to comment on the specifics of that; however, I certainly hope any issues are resolved quickly because I think these changes can do a lot of good.”

RACGP President Dr Karen Price endorses Professor O’Mara’s comments.

“It is another reminder of the legacy of the NAIDOC week theme ‘Heal Country’ and a really strong step in the right direction,” she says.

Information for prescribers is available here.