‘It is in their interest to sell as much as they can.’


man holding 'no' sign

Doctors have attacked pharmacy over new powers for Queensland pharmacists, claiming they are “cloaked as emergency COVID-19 measures”

Over the long weekend, the Queensland Government announced new measures for pharmacists including adjustments to the Communicable Diseases and Pharmacist Vaccination Programs, meaning greater scope for pharmacists to administer vaccinations and prescribe certain medicines to patients, if a prescriber is unavailable.

The TGA is developing a protocol letting pharmacists supply alternate medicines to a patient if supplies of a usual medicine are unavailable due to medicines shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pharmacists can dispense a maximum PBS quantity or pack size without a prescription, if the pharmacist is satisfied there is immediate need, usually a months’ supply for most medicines.

The Guild and PSA both welcomed the measures, with PSA Queensland President Chris Campbell calling them “common-sense” and noting that “Dispensing therapeutic substitutions to patients is well within the current skillset of every pharmacist in Queensland and it is very important we continue to work with the Government and TGA to ensure there is as little bureaucratic red tape as possible and patient care and safety are paramount”.

But representatives of the AMA say the measures endanger the lives of Queenslanders.

AMA Queensland Councillor Dr Nick Yim, a former pharmacist, called the new amendments, announced by Health Minister Steven Miles, unnecessary and dangerous.

“Without any consultation with doctors, Mr Miles has made amendments that empower pharmacists to prescribe a wide range of medications, including for people with chronic illnesses, without consulting a doctor,” Dr Yim said.

“These new powers for pharmacists have been cloaked as emergency COVID-19 measures and yet access to GP appointments has never been better with telehealth consultations now available and able to be bulk billed.”

The AMA at a federal level has noted and expressed concern about a dropoff in consultations due to fears around the novel coronavirus.

Dr Yim expressed concern that Mr Miles had announced pharmacists would be empowered to provide COVID-19 vaccinations when they became available.

“We are yet to find out the make-up of the vaccine, any potential side effects and whether it will impact people with particular health conditions,” Dr Yim said.

“While it is vital the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed as quickly as possible–once it becomes available in 12 or 18 months–it is premature and irresponsible to announce now that pharmacists will distribute it.”

AMA Queensland President Dr Dilip Dhupelia said pharmacists have an inherent conflict of interest in providing medical care to patients.

“Pharmacies are commercial businesses and it is in their interest to sell as much as they can to each person who walks through their door,” Dr Dhupelia said.

“We urge Mr Miles to reconsider these amendments and would welcome the opportunity to explain our concerns with him.

“Queenslanders deserve to feel confident their State Government is protecting their health, not placing it in danger.”

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1 Comment

  1. Michael Ortiz
    17/04/2020

    Is “Chicken Little” alive and well in the AMA and/or the RACGP. I still remember when Flu vaccination by Pharmacists was first introduced in Queensland and the Queensland Medical leadership told everyone that the sky would fall in!

    Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, GPs seem to prefer tele-medicine consultations and they seem to be hiding behind a computer screen. It gives some patients a wrong message in that GPs are afraid to treat them. More importantly GPs can’t give an injection over the internet.

    The “Pharmacist Advice” group learnt, more than 20 years ago, about the benefit of not hiding behind their computer screens. Patients responded to face to face contact even if it was 1.5 metres apart.

    Patients will vote with their feet and many are concerned about having to wait in GP surgeries to get their flu vaccine. Not surprisingly, they are happy to go to their local pharmacy for their flu vaccinations. What is disappointing is that Pharmacists can’t access NIP vaccinations and that they can’t bulk bill to give the vaccination like GPs and Nurses

    The AMA representative seems to be hypocritical and cynical in complaining that “it is in their (pharmacists) interest to sell as much as they can to each person who walks through their door”. Most medical practices are also commercial businesses and they charge patients and/or they bulk bill Government when they give them a flu injection.

    It is disappointing that the leadership of the Medical profession in Queensland are more interested in protecting their turf than looking after vulnerable patients.

    If GPs really want patients to receive high quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that the AMA and the RACGP stop criticising pharmacists and find ways to work with them to the benefit of all patients.

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