Guiding consumers since 2009

Independent pharmacies fight back

By Danielle van Wyk

This week the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) distributed a petition against leading medical scheme practices that threaten independent community pharmacies and patient care nationwide.

“Medical Scheme bullying tactics force patients to go to specific corporate pharmacies or use pharmacy courier services, which does not benefit the consumer and denies them choice. Medical Schemes should not be allowed to decree where their members get their medicines from, as this infringes on the rights of the patient to patient care.

“We are yet to ascertain how Medical Schemes appoint their Designated Service Providers (DSP’s) as there is no clear policy guideline. In addition to this, a penalty co-payment is charged to consumers who choose to get their medicines from a provider of their choice. It is in the consumer’s best interest to obtain their medicines from the provider of their own choice, and without being charged a penalty for doing so,” stated the ICPA.

The petition which is being distributed in both online and hardcopy form is calling on the department of health, the Registrar of Medical Schemes and the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) to “stop medical scheme network practices that threaten independent community pharmacies and patient care countrywide”.

The ICPA’s agenda is to ensure that schemes are regulated on how DSP’s are chosen so that they are not able to exclude independent pharmacies from joining these networks.

In addition, it is calling for regulators of the industry to look at the way penalty co-payments are calculated and regulated.

“Medical Schemes should not be able to charge such high penalty co-payments should a member choose to use a provider of their choice, other than the one specified by the Medical Scheme,” stated the ICPA.

This is with the belief that these practices are ‘unfair’ to the consumer and the pharmacies excluded.

“Unless things change very soon, your Independent Community Pharmacy may become obsolete, change must happen now. It is not in your best interest as a consumer to receive your chronic medication from a different pharmacy to where you receive your acute or day to day medication. Patient care is compromised,” stated the ICPA.

In addition to the above, the closing of these independent pharmacies would mean limited access to medicine as independent pharmacies are greater in number than the large chain store pharmacies.

“If 2000 Independent Community Pharmacies close shop, South Africans will have limited or no access to medicines – 700 large chain store pharmacies do not have capacity to service the entire public in South Africa. In addition to a lack of access to medicines, the closure of Independent Community Pharmacies would result in widespread job losses – another 20 000 jobs will be lost,” the ICPA said. 

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