‘The ’80s are calling Dr Zappala.’


Pharmacists are unimpressed with the latest pot shot from GPs, in which they were called “usurpers”

Earlier this week, AMA vice-president Dr Chris Zappala wrote in Australian Medicine that he felt that “collaboration” was a euphemism for role substitution and that pharmacists are “straying dangerously” into medical territory.

He wrote that this push was “conceivably a strategy of self-defined job redefinition in order to improve market share and profit, given how aggressive the pharmacy retail market has become”.

Pharmacists have a conflict of interest when offering medical advice, he said, claiming that they have a “perverse profit incentive”.

The pharmacy profession took to social media to express its displeasure.

“This article does very little beyond demonstrating the author’s clear lack of understanding of the nature of conflict of interest, the scope of practice of non-medical health care practitioners, and the capacity to respectfully discuss an issue without relying on hearsay, claims without evidence, or even wild accusations,” wrote Jarrod McMaugh, on the original piece in AusMed.

“The 80s are calling Dr Zappala—they want their tired, unproven, hysterical arguments back.”

Mr McMaugh also discussed the opinion piece here at the AJP.

“Pharmacists aren’t expanding scope; pharmacists are meeting scope as demonstrated by international evidence,” he wrote.

“The motivation for doing so is professional satisfaction, workforce utilisation, and improved outcomes for the health of the people we serve.”

Dr Zappala’s article comes from a place of “insecurity” and “fear,” he wrote.

Other high-profile pharmacists posted their thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.

Pharmacists expressed agreement – “the amount of ‘gap payments’ I’ve had to make recently, they’ve got a hide!” wrote one – as well as concern about Dr Zappala’s call to integrate pharmacists into GP practices.

“So we can march to the beat of their drum,” wrote one.

“When are those pharmacists pushing for pharmacists in GP practices going to realise it is just a con for the AMA to control pharmacists?” wrote another. “Naivety at its best!”

On AJP, PharmOwner wrote that there was value in having a “clear demarcation” between prescribers and dispensers; and that “doctors make more profits when they refuse to authorise repeats so patients have to present to their GP more often than necessary just so the doctor can claim another medicare consultation for prescribing a repeat script”.

And Karalyn Huxhagen wrote that “this is not a war about profit, this is a battle to maximise patient health outcomes using available and appropriate workforce”.

“GPs who do work collaboratively with pharmacists in the true sense of the word gain as much value from our expertise as they possibly can,” she said.

“In my role the GP practice and the GP has me on speed dial and I answer the questions while the patient is in front of GP. The GP folllows up with whatever recommendation is then needed.”

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