Pharmacy just a ‘street shop’, says GP

It’s “like Groundhog Day” says one pharmacist, as a prominent doctor attacks pharmacy over professional services

Over the weekend, the Daily Telegraph published an article titled, What’s up Doc? Try these tricks to save money on medical services, featuring a pharmacist who said some services can be performed in community pharmacy.

Matina Karanicolas told reporter Anthony Keane that many pharmacies now offer blood pressure and blood glucose checks free of charge, as well as providing influenza and pertussis vaccination services and absence from work certificates.

“That would save a patient going to the doctor, waiting times and consult fees. You walk into a pharmacy and 15 minutes later you are gone and all you have to pay for is the vaccine,” she told the Telegraph.

“People don’t realise we do all these other services,” Mrs Karanicolas said. “Many doctors can charge $70-$80 for a 15 minute appointment. If there’s any issue we would always refer them back to the doctor.”

The article also quoted RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel, who said that Australians should not fragment their health care too much, and should contact GPs.

Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care Evan Ackermann, a frequent critic of the community pharmacy sector, tweeted a link to the article with the comment: “Pharmacy is a street shop where sales techniques are disguised and marketed as ‘health services’.”

“Pharmacy is the reason why many people are on useless and inappropriate medication,” he wrote.

Several members of the pharmacy profession responded to the comments.

“I would suggest you read this and attempt to provide constructive ways forward, in particular your resistance to pharmacists in general practice is a reason that patients continue to receive inappropriate medicine,” wrote PSA president Shane Jackson, linking to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s literature review on medication safety in Australia.

Other pharmacists had comments of their own:

In a second tweet, Dr Ackermann also referred to pharmacists as amateurs:

And a third linked to his 2016 piece in the Medical Journal of Australia, in which he argued that pharmacy-based Minor Ailments Schemes were no more than “a push by the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacy business to increase drug sales under the guise of health innovation”.

Anthony Tassone, president of the Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch, summed up pharmacy’s reaction to the tweets quite succinctly: “I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day,” he wrote.


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