MedsASSIST: what you said

We take a look at what you had to say about the MedsASSIST decisions

AJP‘s comments sections lit up this week as announcements were made first, that MedsASSIST would be terminated, and second, that the Health Minister had stepped in to negotiate with the Guild to keep it running.

Almost every contributor was upset at the decision to wind up the platform. Some took aim at the Guild, calling the organisation “disgraced”.

“An incredibly short-sighted move by the Guild,” wrote Ronky. “This inevitably gives the public and governments the impression, whether justified or not, that the Guild, and by extension pharmacists, don’t really care about helping to ensure safe use of medicines; the impression given is that MedsAssist was just a token thrown up at the last minute in a desperate attempt to forestall the up-scheduling and loss of sales.”

“Shame Guild, shame,” wrote PharmOwner. “Thanks for pulling the rug out from under our feet. MedsAsssist WAS a useful tool in detecting patients with codeine issues even though not every pharmacy used it.”

But many contributors also defended the Guild, with some praising it for introducing MedsASSIST in the first place.

“Perhaps the deactivation of MedsASSIST is a few months premature, but the SHAME is that the TGA and government haven’t recognised the complex and challenging job that most pharmacists do in managing the supply of such an important medicine and have decided to up-schedule it,” said Ashim Marfatia.

“If you’re an owner pharmacist and don’t like what the Guild do, go ahead and join or become a part of their decision making team. Be a part of the solution.”

“Not a fail by the Guild,” said Bente Hart. “A fail by the pharmacies that chose not to use it.”

“Don’t blame the Guild,” wrote Toby. “Blame the TGA. After all, it’s the TGA that implicitly said that MedsAssist was not good enough, that pharmacists were not good enough, to supervise codeine – even though the doctors will have no real-time monitoring system.”

The Guild’s Anthony Tassone stepped in, saying, “If it was not for the Guild who invested its own (and members) funds to develop the MedsAssist real time monitoring system, there would not have been any system in place to provide a clinical decision making support tool for pharmacists.” He hinted that there might be another announcement soon…

And the following day, the Guild announced that Greg Hunt was taking action to keep MedsASSIST running.

Readers responded with relief, and a certain amount of cynicism.

“Good to see the PGA acting like the AMA and other doctor advocacy and representative groups: very publically “wedge” pollies (on either side) into a corner… then they will respond to save their own skin, reputation and integrity (not that these attributes are a prerequisite for the job),” wrote Slim Jim.

“The Government showing more commonsense than the Guild should mean some red faces,” said David Haworth.

But Phillip Smith said this was a “brilliant” move by the Guild, “and shows the potential for future issues to be solved as a positive for pharmacy. Eg pull a product or service that ultimately will drive up hospitalisations looks to force the governments hand.”

And fears around upscheduling remain.

“Does anyone believe that people going to the doctor for combination codeine products, will pay for a consultation and accept a low dose versus a high dose codeine product?” asked Tony Pal.

“The upscheduling decision will result in those who would have been happy on a low dose of Codeine getting prescribed a high dose of Codeine. How is that better treatment?”

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