Threats, intimidation, harassment and abuse of TGA staff or pharmacists and their staff is “totally unacceptable”, say leading groups
Organisations including the Public Health Association of Australia, the RACGP, the Kirby Institute, the Sax Institute, the Doherty Institute, the University of Sydney and RMIT University among others are standing by Australia’s medicines regulator, the TGA, following reports of harassment.
Recent reports of threats, intimidation and harassment aimed at TGA leadership and staff are “a reason for serious concern” and “unacceptable”, said the organisations in a joint statement of support.
According to The New Daily, Terry Slevin, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, said “death threats” had been made and TGA staff had been on the receiving end of threatening calls and images of gallows.
These reports come after the TGA has played key role in assessing and approving COVID-19 vaccines for use in Australia, and after the agency’s lawyers wrote to the United Australia Party leader, Craig Kelly MP, alleging the party has breached copyright and demanding that it stop distributing incomplete extracts of adverse event reports relating to COVID-19 vaccines which the TGA believes could be “seriously misleading”.
The TGA also recently imposed new restrictions on the prescribing of oral ivermectin, concerned about its off-label use in COVID-19.
In response to the threats, the more than 25 health and medical organisations, and over 60 leading scientists and clinicians banded together to write and co-sign the statement of support that “condemns threats to TGA staff”.
“We express full support for the vital work the TGA does to assess and regulate new medicines and vaccines. The TGA has a strong reputation for being expert, independent and rigorous in its assessments of new products, and is similarly rigorous in its assessment of the safety of vaccines, so as to improve and protect the health of all Australians,” reads the statement.
“Another essential role of our medicines regulator is to challenge, and where necessary, prosecute those who seek to mislead the Australian public about important health information so as to pursue their own interests. This role is particularly important in the current global health crisis.”
The organisations and clinicians add that they believe Australians’ trust in the TGA is “well placed”.
“The TGA must continue to be an independent, diligent, evidence-driven and responsible medicines regulator focused on serving the health interest of Australians. Individuals and/or organisations with vested interests must not be allowed to undermine or derail their vitally important work,” they said.
Community pharmacies have also recently been on the receiving end of threatening letters that say pharmacists “may expect to be punished to the full extent of the law” for administering COVID-19 vaccines.
The PSA said threats, intimidation, harassment and abuse of TGA staff or pharmacists and their staff is “totally unacceptable”.
“PSA continues to fully support the work and role of the TGA as Australia’s key medicines regulator, and the evidence-based advice they provide,” they said.
”PSA also continues to fully support our frontline pharmacist workforce.
”This is why PSA was one of the only peak bodies to take a strong stance in support of the TGA’s advice on ivermectin, and pharmacists right to refuse supply if appropriate use cannot be confirmed.”
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia said standing by the TGA is about protecting national health.
The organisation said it “condemns any attack on pharmacists, doctors, nurses and any others in the health sector team who are committed to quickly bringing the pandemic under control and maximising vaccination rates.
“The Guild continues to work closely with authorities including the TGA so that together we can deliver the strongest possible health outcomes for Australians facing the threat of COVID-19,” it told the AJP.