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Thursday, 30 June 1949

Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) . - I wish to make some comments on proposed new section 7a (2), which provides that the provisions of proposed new section 7a (1), which prescribe that a medical practitioner who writes a prescription otherwise than on a printed form supplied' by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, shall be guilty of an offence for which the penalty, on conviction, is £50, shall not apply -

(a)   in any case in which the person is respect of whom, or at whose request, the prescription is written requests the medical practitioner not to write the prescription on a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth for the purposes of this Act or

(b)   in such other cases or circumstances as are prescribed.

The "such other cases or circumstances " are not stated in detail in the bill, but I understand that one of the cases or circumstances in which the prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth will not need to be used will be when a medical practitioner has to write a prescription to meet an emergency and has not with him a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth. A medical practitioner who writes a prescription in such a circumstance on other than a prescription form supplied by the Commonwealth will, within a certain period, have to rewrite the prescription on the prescribed form. I have heard from a pharmaceutical chemist, who, from the beginning, wholeheartedly supported the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, now has a strong objection to the use of the Commonwealth form, because, as he points out, at present, many chemists are losing heavily because of it. His objection has been the subject of correspondence between him and the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), copies of which 1. have with me. He points out in the following terms how he has lost : -

We find it difficult to obtain from the doctor (according to the rules) prescriptions on government forms that have either been phoned or written on ordinary prescriptions, forwarded within the prescribed 24 hours, and on going through our file we find that some of these prescriptions date back to December, that is November accounts. The loss on these prescriptions amounts to- about £30.

That is in one pharmacy. Then he talks about the formulary itself before getting back to the subject of the Commonwealth prescription form. The Minister replied to his letter as follows: -

The regulations require that the doctor must indicate that he wishes to prescribe a benefit; that upon the request of the chemist the doctor must furnish within two days, a prescription on the official form. If the doctor fails to do so, the chemist should report the matter, giving full details, to the Senior Commonwealth Medical Officer, who will take whatever action ls necessary. A chemist who has complied with the regulations will suffer no loss.

That chemist shows that he is put in. the position of having to be a police officer laying a charge against a doctor who has failed to attend to the' details set forth in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act and has thereby rendered himself liable to a penalty. This particular chemist takes very strong exception to that particular point, as I do. I believe that it is probable that this matter has escaped the attention of the Minister, but it certainly should be examined and rectified. If we are to have sections of the community each of which is liable to report regarding the misconduct of another person, under any law, then we shall gradually develop a state of society that closely resembles the police state. We must guard against that in any circumstances. If I am in order in doing so, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I shall speak further on other points that have been raised by this chemist. If any of my remarks are out of order, I trust that you will inform me of the fact. The chemist said regarding the formulary -

.   . the payment is frequently disallowed for chronic cases where excessive doses are ordered by the doctor, and naturally as ethical chemists we wish to give the best service to our clients in accordance with the doctors' prescriptions.

During December payment was disallowed for ten units of penicillin of 500,000 each, because according to the book of rules a patient is only allowed 500,000 units a day, and thu has meant a lews to us of some £8 to £0.

Frequently we have a chronic certificate that allows 21 days for repents to be made, and often in these cases we have to refuse repeats because the time has expired, and frequently we have prescriptions presented one or two days overdue', and then again according to the book of rules we are not allowed to dispense them.

At present we have a case in this town of a child needing special Insulin P. but under regulations this cannot be prescribed although the parent is on a living wage.

The man concerned earns only the living wage, as I know, because I discussed the case with the chemist. The letter continues -

Modern, drugs like Benadrys, anthasin, tha tri sulpha group,. &c, are not included in formulary.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN" (Mr. Burke). - The honorable mem her cannot be permitted to discuss the formulary or the dosage.

Dame ENID LYONS - Very well, sir, I shall not proceed with that. When I rose to speak I had not carefully examined the1 clause and I agree that 1 may be out of order. But I desire to point out to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) that I am passing on to him criticism from a man who has been a keen supporter of free medicine, but who has now become extremely hostile to the whole situation. I consider that the following comment by the chemist, merits the Minister's attention : -

In passing may I draw your attention te the fact that the "hook of rules" with regulations and penalties makes every chemist a thief and robber before he starts work.

In conclusion I desire to point out to the Minister that this clause will make of every chemist, if he tries to protect his own interests, an informer against any doctor who infringes the regulations, and I take very strong exception to that.

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