GP-owned dispensing pharmacists ‘world’s best practice’?


Doc group argues for GP-owned dispensing pharmacists, but Guild says it’s a “tit-for-tat” reaction to “battery hen” medicine—while PSA maintains separation of prescribing and dispensing is “paramount”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) will continue to lobby the Government for changes to pharmacy ownership and location rules, it has said in a statement, adding that pharmacists dispensing in general practice would be a “good outcome” for patients.

Having GP-owned dispensing pharmacists inside general practice clinics is world’s best practice, said the AMA.

“It’s also about improving health outcomes,” said AMA President Dr Tony Bartone.

“And that’s what the evidence has shown right around the world, when all members of a healthcare team work in collaboration together with the patient, with their file, with their records, with their history all together in the one location.”

Dr Bartone said the AMA would press on with its advocacy for change in this area.

The organisation has formed a new General Practice Pharmacy Working Group to drive policy, strategy, and advocacy on pharmacy and dispensing, and to provide the Federal Government with strategic input to the 7CPA.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has rejected the idea of GPs owning pharmacies in recent weeks.

“We have a very, very clear set of rules regarding pharmacy ownership which follows in fact the recent reviews and we, through a bipartisan approach, reaffirmed those rules in the Parliament in the course of the last two years,” Mr Hunt said.

“So we’ve only just re-legislated in this space and there are no plans to change that.”

The Pharmacy Guild said the AMA is only pushing for GP-owned pharmacies because they are unhappy with the state of their own profession.

“The AMA’s push to own pharmacies is not about world’s best practice or improved patient outcomes, or anything so lofty,” a Guild spokesperson told the AJP.

“It’s just about a tit-for-tat swipe at pharmacists because the leaders of doctor groups feel guilty about letting their own ownership regulations slip through their hands.

“This has condemned many good general practitioners to ‘battery hen’ medicine in corporate sweatshop medical centres. If it weren’t so sad and pathetic, it would be quite funny.”

Meanwhile the PSA says the AMA is muddling the evidence.

“We should not confuse the evidence that supports multidisciplinary teams with who is entrusted to own and operate a pharmacy—as they are two completely separate topics,” a PSA spokesperson told the AJP.

“There are many wonderful examples of pharmacists already working closely together for the betterment of patient care, whether it is the integration of pharmacists into general practice, established community pharmacies working with their local general practice centres or the emerging area of virtual healthcare teams,” they said.

However the PSA maintains that separation of prescribing and dispensing activities for prescription medicines is “paramount” for patient safety.

“That is why we have stated that the prescribing doctor should not have a financial interest in the dispensing of medicines,” said the spokesperson.

“In the same vein we have stated that the independent decision to initiate a prescription medicine from a pharmacist should be separated from the function of dispensing.

The AMA’s suggestion that allowing the prescribing doctor to own the pharmacy dispensing the medicine is world’s best practice is absolutely false, and at worse dangerous,” said the PSA spokesperson.

“From a prescribing point of view, we believe the profession’s efforts are best directed at addressing the need for expanded continued dispensing arrangements, as well as working on collaborative prescribing models.

“Independent prescribing of prescription medicines is best done separated from the professional activity of dispensing.”

Doctor groups have been vocal about the role of pharmacists in recent months.

At the recent Pharmacy Connect conference, former Guild president Kos Sclavos encouraged pharmacists to get on board with the Queensland prescribing trial, saying the doctors are fighting to get it shelved.

“We are facing fierce competition,” he said. “For every meeting we have, the doctors’ groups have seven or eight meetings.”

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