Pharmacists are underutilised in preventive health and their voices are too often missing from discussion of the health care system in Australia, Greens leader Senator Richard di Natale told the Guild annual dinner in Canberra last night.
The Senator said that pharmacy is “too often ignored”, with many Australians thinking of the health sector as comprising doctors, nurses, GPs and hospitals.
On the other hand, “community pharmacists and the sector more generally could be some of the most influential advocates for evidence-based public health policy,” Senator di Natale said.
“There are so many things we could look at but we could start with a bigger investment in health promotion and illness prevention,” he said.
“And let me tell you, this is where pharmacy can be just as crucial a part of the health infrastructure as the emergency room and doctor’s surgery.
“It’s not just about access to medicines and treatments, it’s the provision of advice and that inextricable social comfort that comes from coming across a familiar pharmacy sign lit up on the street – often late into the night – when you’ve got a sick loved one at home.
“Yet the perspective of pharmacists is often absent from our major health policy debates.
“Robust discussions about the Community Pharmacy Agreement and location rules certainly elicit passionate responses but input from pharmacists is just as important to some of the other big health policy challenges that I’ve already mentioned.”
Senator di Natale applauded pharmacy’s work in harm minimisation and through the Methadone maintenance programs and said that the rescheduling of naloxone to be available OTC to treat opiate overdose, put forward to the TGA by pharmacist Angelo Pricolo, was “a terrific reform”.
“Let’s even open up the debate about free access to pharmacotherapies for the benefit of your clients, but also to relieve the pressure on your service delivery from managing payments and debt for people struggling to change their drug use behaviours.
“More Victorians in my home state are dying from overdoses involving prescription drugs than are killed in road accidents,” he said.
“There are a variety of ways this problem could be tackled and all of them need the active involvement of pharmacists. The hidden death toll from pharmaceutical drugs requires urgent attention from both federal and state governments, doctors, pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry.
Senator di Natale said pharmacists will play a crucial role in medicinal cannabis reform.
“There are many thousands of people who are in urgent need of the palliative benefits of medicinal cannabis and they will seek out your trusted members to ensure they get access to this medicine.”