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.”