Doctor mag, Guild in codeine stoush

doctor wearing boxing glove

A story in Australian Doctor claims the Guild plans to ignore the schedule of codeine next year

A Pharmacy Guild spokesperson has condemned the article, which claims the Guild is confident that it will succeed in establishing a “schedule 3.5”.

Paul Smith and Antony Scholefield write in the doctor’s magazine this week that “the TGA may be the last word on patient safety but its decrees don’t matter much if you are the Pharmacy Guild of Australia”.

“It has emerged that the Guild has written to its 4000-plus members telling them not to worry about the impact of the ban (and the potential loss of $145 million in codeine sales) when it comes into force next year,” the two write.

“The reason? It is going to ignore the TGA scheduling drug system, and lobby state and territory governments to change poison and drug regulations so that patients can buy ‘prescription-only’ codeine without a prescription.”

The article claims that the Guild is “already wining and dining state ministers and is confident of success”.

“It has also urged pharmacists to tell patients the Guild was working on ways to get around the TGA’s OTC codeine ban,” it says.

A spokesperson for the Guild today slammed the article.

“What a load of provocative and ill-informed nonsense from AusDoc,” the spokesperson told the AJP.

“We expect doctor-centric propaganda from that publication, but it usually manages to avoid outright errors of fact.

“The Guild has not written to our Members telling them ‘not to worry about the ban (sic)’. The Guild is not ‘going to ignore the TGA scheduling drug system’ – and it is irresponsible of AusDoc to suggest we would do so.

“Our advocacy for an exception to the scheduling in certain circumstances under strict protocols, with mandatory national real time recording is an appropriate and responsible solution.

“Having invested in the development and roll out of MedsASSIST, the Guild is still waiting for any doctor group to invest in real time recording to address rampant doctor shopping of prescription medicines.”

The article did get one thing right, the spokesperson says.

Mr Smith and Mr Scholefield wrote that the TGA “should be alarmed” at the Guild’s activities, but that “publicly, it is playing with a straight bat”.

It quoted a TGA spokesperson who said that “while states and territories have consistently indicated a desire for a uniform approach to medicines scheduling regulations, it is within the remit of individual jurisdictions to decide to vary a scheduling decision, or provide particular exemptions”.

The Guild spokesperson told the AJP that “the TGA spokesperson quoted in the AusDoc article is absolutely right about the capacity for the States and Territories to consider these issues”.

Pharmacists including Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone also took to Twitter to defend pharmacy after the RACGP’s Dr Evan Ackermann tweeted a link to the Australian Doctor piece.

The article followed the publication in AJP of this open letter by Pharmacy Guild executive director David Quilty, in which he clarified the Guild’s position on codeine and discussed its concerns about the drug’s upscheduling in the then absence of other safety measures such as a national prescription real-time monitoring system.

Such a system was announced late last week by Health Minister Greg Hunt at the Pharmaceutical Society’s flagship conference, PSA17. The rollout is expected to be completed nationwide by the end of 2018.

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