Dispensing fee to be ‘transparent’
Johannesburg – New draft regulations introduce “transparency and fairness” to the dispensing fee that may be charged by pharmacists, the Pharmacy Stakeholders’ Forum (PSF) said on Wednesday.
“Recent reports in the media about exorbitant fees to be added to the price of medicines are largely unfounded,” the PSF said in a statement.
Under the draft regulations, a tiered system set out maximum fees that could be charged by pharmacists, it said.
Since 2005, pharmacists had been permitted to set their own dispensing fee in accordance with the expenses they had incurred in their business.
There had been no evidence of pharmacists charging excessive fees, Sham Moodley, joint co-ordinator of the PSF said.
“While the fee may have varied from pharmacy to pharmacy, this has been influenced by the fee that medical schemes have been prepared to pay to pharmacists.”
110% medical aid increase
Moodley said that in many cases, this amount had been very low and consumers had had to pay the difference out of their own pockets.
“This perception that the price of medicine will increase has to a large extent been created by the fact that many medical schemes have not been prepared to pay more than the fee ruled to have been inappropriate.”
He said some schemes had failed to anticipate the probable introduction of an appropriate dispensing fee, and had not even accommodated an inflation-linked fee.
The Medical Schemes Council’s annual report reflected that the contribution to medical schemes by members increased over a period from 2001 to 2008 by 110%, despite the fact that the number of members remained relatively constant.
Moodley’s fellow joint co-ordinator of the PSF, Ivan Kotz, said that consumers were therefore now paying more than twice the amount they had paid for medical scheme cover 10 years ago.
“In addition, the reports show that over the same period, the non-healthcare expenditure for administrative processes of medical schemes rose by 83% and in 2008 it was R9.7bn.”
During this period, medicine expenditure increased by 55.5%.
“This expenditure is a composite of the manufacturer’s price, the wholesaler’s fee and a small portion represents the pharmacist’s fee.”
In 2004, the pharmacist’s dispensing fee was effectively decreased and since 2005 it had remained at the same level, without even an inflationary increase.
“Introduction of a maximum fee that may be charged will ensure that the process of fee determination is transparent,” said Kotze.
Consumers would know that pharmacists had to calculate and reflect the dispensing fee according to the published procedure.
“They will also have legal protection from overcharging.”
In effect the only change introduced with the proposed dispensing fee is that there was a cap on the maximum fee that may be charged by pharmacists, Kotz said.