Pharmacy tests a ‘vehicle for generating income’

Dr Tony Bartone. Image Courtesy AMA.
Dr Tony Bartone. Image Courtesy AMA.

The AMA has called for a lift on the freeze on medical rebates for pathology services… and taken a swipe at services available through pharmacy

The AMA has issued a position statement on pathology, which makes a number of pronouncements including that direct-to-consumer marketing of pathology tests carries “real risks” for patients.

Genetic tests are particularly implicated, the AMA says.

Tests directly marketed to consumers may produce results which are “inaccurate, contradictory, misleading, taken out of context, and open to misinterpretation,” the position statement says.

In launching the statement today, AMA president Dr Tony Bartone said that the AMA is “highlighting emerging issues that are impacting on the pathology sector, patients, and the broader health sector”.

“The AMA opposes the increasing marketing of direct-to-consumer pathology tests, such as those sold through pharmacies,” he said.

“Health checks, screening activities, and diagnostic tests that are not clinically indicated, evidence-based, and cost effective are a vehicle for generating income rather than providing responsible health care services aimed at benefiting patients.

“Opportunistic ‘health screening’ of asymptomatic people leaves them with unnecessary out-of-pocket costs and risks generating needless follow-up consultations and services.

“Pathology tests should only be requested on behalf of a patient by a doctor in the context of providing health care.

“Medical genetic testing, in particular, should always be accompanied by appropriate genetic counselling and patient education,” Dr Bartone said.

He also said that the Government must act immediately to end the freeze on Medicare rebates for pathology services, which has been in place for more than 20 years.

“The Government this week announced it will re-introduce indexation for most diagnostic imaging services from 1 July 2020,” Dr Bartone said.

“It must now do the right thing by patients and do the same for pathology services. The freeze has gone on for far too long. Patients and the Australian health system are the big losers.”

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