An evaluation of the Australian Community Pharmacy Agreement from a public policy perspective: industry policy cloaked as health policy?

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Abstract

Background: A series of Community Pharmacy Agreements (Agreements) between the Federal government and a pharmacy-owners’ body, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA) have been influential policy in Australian community pharmacy (CP) since 1990. While ostensibly to support the public’s access and use of medicines, the core elements of the Agreements have been remuneration for dispensing and rules that limit the establishment of new pharmacies. Criticism has focused on the self-interest of pharmacy owners, the exclusion of other pharmacy stakeholders from the Agreement negotiations, the lack of transparency, and the impact on competition. The objective of this paper is to determine the true nature of the policy by examining the evolution of the CPA from a policy theory perspective. 

Methods: A qualitative evaluation of all seven Agreement documents and their impact was undertaken using policy theories including a linear policy development model, Multiple Streams Framework, Incremental Theory, the Advocacy Coalition Framework, the Theory of Economic Regulation, the Punctuated Equilibrium Framework, and Elite Theory. The Agreements were evaluated using four lenses: their objectives, evidentiary base, stakeholders and beneficiaries. 

Results: The PGA has acted as an elite organisation with long-standing influence on the policy’s development and implementation. Notable has been the failure of other pharmacy stakeholders to establish broad-based advocacy coalitions in order to influence the Agreements. The incremental changes negotiated every 5 years to the core elements of the Agreements have supported the publics’ access to medication, provided stability for the government, and security for existing pharmacy owners. Their impact on the evolution of pharmacists’ scope of practice and through that, on the public’s safe and appropriate use of medication, has been less clear. 

Conclusions: The Agreements can be characterised predominantly as industry policy benefiting pharmacy owners, rather than health policy. An emerging issue is whether incremental change will continue to be an adequate policy response to the social, political, and technological changes that are affecting health care, or whether policy disruption is likely to arise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number71
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Keywords

  • Community pharmacy
  • Medicines access
  • Pharmacy practice
  • Policy theory

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