by Donald Tafadzwa Chidoori
Medical aid societies are paying thousands of dollars for $1 prescriptions, something that can be avoided if only they would accept Pharmacist Initiated Medicines (PIM), says Luckmore Bunu from the Retail Pharmacists Association
Pharmacist Initiated Medicines (PIM) are medicines that a person can get in a pharmacy without necessarily visiting a doctor.
It is no secret that doctors charge consultation fees that most people (who use out of pocket) cannot afford and these fees are above what medical aids can pay hence the shortfalls that patients pay.
Medical aids do not cover medicines that are purchased without a prescription including the PIMs this means they will then use the prescription to buy the medicine on medical aid in a pharmacy.
As a result if a person wants to buy a PIM that cost $1 on medical aid, they have to first visit a doctor and pay from $25 up to $150 (one hundred and fifty dollars) in consultation fees which has left medical aid societies paying large sums of money.
“However, if medical aids could at least pay a pharmacist $10, to do a consultation for a PIM, then pay for the PIM, it could save the medical aid up to $140 (one hundred and forty dollars). This money could be used to remove shortfalls on medicines. Shortfalls on medicines put by medical aids are affecting access to medicines by patients,” Luckmore Bunu said.
PIMs are not only cost savers for the Medical Aid Societies but are also convenient for patients and can save lives says Luckmore Bunu.
It is no secret that if it is at night and during a weekend it might be difficult to get a prescription for the medicine and that not all ailments need one to visit a doctor, by insisting that all prescriptions should be done by a doctor medical aid societies are losing funds that could have been used to develop the health sector.
“The public need to appreciate that the pharmacist is the custodian of medicines in other words the pharmacist is the one who manufactures medicines thus the pharmacist has more knowledge about medicines and what they treat more than anyone else one can think of. There is no other healthcare professional who knows more about medicines except the pharmacist.
“Thus, patients can actually go to a pharmacy and get the medicines they require without going to see a doctor. For example a PIM is Ibuprofen (brufen as it is commonly called) which is an non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drug (pain killer),” said Mr Bunu.
About The Retail Pharmacists Association (RPA)
RPA is the only professional association that represents retail pharmacists in particular in the country (of Zimbabwe). It is an association that does what I will refer to as peer to peer policing of the profession. It negotiates for more competitive prices of medicines through PPP which in turn will make the medicines more affordable thus improving access hence ultimately leading to better and quality healthcare outcomes. The RPA is made up of community pharmacists whom we see in pharmacies. These pharmacists are the most readily and easily accessible healthcare professionals. As it stands, RPA members offer free consultations to patients and refer to other healthcare providers where necessary. In other words, RPA members are part of the healthcare team that is there to serve patients and give the people of Zimbabwe better health status by taking care of their ailments and illnesses.