Regulatory morass putting patients & pharmacists at risk

Patients are potentially at risk from inconsistent interstate prescription-related requirements, Australian experts say

Pharmacists and GPs are also in danger of unwittingly breaching differing jurisdictional requirements relating to prescribing rules and regulations, they add.

A review of Australian state and territory Acts and Regulations relating to medicines prescribing and provision has revealed a large number of inconsistencies between jurisdictions.

Despite more than a decade and a half having passed since the 2000 Galbally Review recommended uniform national drugs, poisons and controlled substances legislation – an approach endorsed by the Health Ministers’ Advisory Council – “little progress has been made” toward uniform legislation, say the reviewers.

This jurisdictional variation has “the potential to impact the legal or ethical practice of a pharmacist,” say the authors who include academics from Griffith University’s  School of Pharmacy and a community pharmacist.

“Pharmacists practising in an unfamiliar jurisdiction may fail to recognise an invalid prescription or refuse to supply a valid prescription due to differences in legislative requirements.”

As an example of the complexity of these differences, they say even highly regulated S3 medicines supply varies greatly. Age restriction, recording, labelling and identification requirements vary for pseudoephedrine.

Supply of these products is not permitted in South Australia without appropriate photo identification, recording of patient details and recording of the transaction on Project Stop: requirements not required in Victoria or Tasmania at the time the review was conducted.

Patients are also impacted, especially if travelling interstate, with differing requirements for age provision of emergency contraceptives, adrenaline auto-injectors and other medicines in Queensland listed as an example.

“Previous research conducted on Queensland pharmacists practising near a state border revealed that ‘lack of awareness of medicines legislation could translate to refusal of dispensing of otherwise legal prescriptions’…. Potentially disrupting the continuum of patient care and bringing the profession into disrepute,” the authors say.

“Ideally medicines legislation should be uniform,” they conclude. “Whenever medicines legislation is updated the opportunity to progress toward legislative harmony should be addressed.”

The study was published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research.

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  1. Country chenist

    bugger the intricacies of the laws, just help the bloody patient and use common sense.

  2. Ron

    Newsflash: Australia, one of the world’s largest countries, is a federation, not a unitary State. Yes the Galbally APPROACH was endorsed IN PRINCIPLE by the Health Ministers – you omitted to mention they also said it would be very difficult to achieve in practice and they placed no timeframe on it.
    The only reason why some of the differences in regulation now seem more obvious is that there are much fewer of them than there used to be 50, 20 or even 10 years ago. Just the fact that you can talk about “S3 medicines” in your article and everyone in Australia instantly knows exactly what you mean (a term which would draw a blank stare anywhere else, even in NZ) shows how far we have come towards national uniformity in medicines regulation.
    If a pharmacist moves to a different state, it is his duty to find out what the laws are that he has to practice under. Not to simply assume that the laws are exactly the same as his home state and then claim that it’s somebody else’s fault when he breaks the law or inconveniences his patients.
    Some patients are in fact amazed at how borderless many of our rules are, for example some are very doubtful when I tell them that their prescriptions can be dispensed by a pharmacy in another State.

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