Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Education in the Context of Australian Practice

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Education in the Context of Australian Practice

Article excerpt


Australia has been educating pharmacists with formal courses for more than 125 years. Originally, pharmacists were educated through an apprenticeship system; how ever, this has evolved into high standard university programs producing broadly educated pharmaceutical scientists with advanced clinical skills who are eligible for registration as pharmacists after a period of supervised experiential practice.

With a population of approximately 21 million people, the Australian continent is roughly the same size as the continental United States and is comprised of 6 states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia) and several territories (the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, and others). It has a government-funded universal healthcare system, called Medicare, which provides Australian citizens and permanent residents with affordable, accessible, and high-quality health care. Medicare provides access to free treatment as a public (Medicare) patient in a public hospital and free or subsidized treatment by all medical practitioners, and for specified services through participating optometrists and dentists. (1)

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) (2) is a national system for subsidizing the cost of most prescription medicines. The aim of the PBS, which commenced in 1948, is to provide reliable and affordable access to a wide range of necessary medicines. A Pharmaceutical Benefit item is a medication listed in the current pharmaceutical benefits schedule and is only available on presentation of a duly written prescription from a medical practitioner, dental practitioner, or optometrist. The medications included on the list are determined by the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing on the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).

A person obtaining a dispensed prescription under the PBS pays a patient copayment (currently A$30.30 for general patients). Concession Card holders, those covered by government entitlements (low income earners, welfare recipients, pensioners, HealthCare Card Holders, ex-military service personnel, and their families), have a reduced copayment (currently A$5.00). Additionally, there are safety net provisions for a reduction in the patient copayment contribution once a family has exceeded a certain dollar amount on PBS-subsidized medications in a calendar year. When a family on General Benefits has accumulated PBS prescription expenditure of A$1141.80, the copayment for a prescription item for the rest of the calendar year is A$5.00, and when Concessional Card holders reach an expenditure level of A$290.00, they subsequently receive their prescriptions free of charge for the rest of the calendar year. On January 1 of the following year all copayment totals begin again at zero and patients must commence paying toward their maximum for that year. (3)


Types of Programs

The principal pharmacy degree offered by Australian universities to enter the profession is a 4-year bachelor of pharmacy degree. From 2003, some universities began offering graduate master of pharmacy degree programs, which consist of 6 semesters taught over a 2-year period. Following successful completion of one of these university-based bachelor's or master's degree programs, graduates must complete approximately 12 months of internship (previously referred to as preregistration training) in a practice setting (typically hospital or community pharmacy) under the supervision of a Pharmacy Board-approved pharmacist. The internship, which involves supervised practice and a program of coursework, is under the control of the relevant state or territory registering body (known as the Pharmacy Board) which undertakes assessment of the interns to ascertain their fitness for practice. Thus, for those who undertake a 4-year bachelor's degree, which is the most common pathway to registration, the overall program from entry to registration is 5 years. …

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