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Survey report on delays in receiving scripts and biologic medication

During 2020 and 2021, some people on biologic and targeted synthetic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (b/tsDMARDs) for arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions reported long delays in receiving their scripts and access to their medication.

The Consumer Advisory Committee of Musculoskeletal Australia and the Consumer Advisory Panel of Arthritis Australia conducted a survey in early 2022 to find out if other people were also experiencing similar delays and, if so, what were the associated impacts.

There were 290 responses to the survey and the survey report is now available.

The findings of the survey support previous anecdotal reports that people prescribed b/tsDMARDs experience delays in receiving their scripts. Responses provided evidence of the serious impact of these delays on people’s quality of life and the physical, mental, financial and social disruption and distress caused by medication delays.

Given the serious impacts on consumers’ health and wellbeing when they are unable to access their medicines in a timely way, Musculoskeletal Australia and Arthritis Australia are calling on the Commonwealth government to:

  • Swiftly implement PBAC’s March 2022 recommendations, which will make access to these vital medicines quicker and easier for many consumers
  • Ask the PBAC to consider the discriminatory impact of not including patients with psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and those taking a biologic or targeted synthetic DMARD without a corresponding biosimilar available
  • Review Services Australia’s processes and processing times for script approvals
  • Prioritise development of efficient, electronic processes for authority medicines access.

Pending these changes being implemented, we have identified several recommendations to mitigate against the harmful consequences of delays:

For rheumatologists:

  • When rebooking patients, consider the timing of the follow-up appointment to take into account adequate time for the processing of scripts where possible, noting follow-up prescriptions are for 24 weeks not six months
  • Consider ticking the box on the prescription so it can be sent directly to the patient
  • Ensure that clinic reception staff are aware of potential delays with scripts and the impacts on patients so that they can respond as needed to patients’ reporting of delays.

For consumers:

  • Ask for an appointment with your rheumatologist less than six months from your previous appointment to build in time for the processing of your script
  • Do not wait until you have run out of medicine before following up – speak to your rheumatologist if you have not received the script within two weeks of running out of your medicine.

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Musculoskeletal Health Australia (or MHA) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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