The week in review

It’s been a rollercoaster of a week around the world and for pharmacists and staff in Australia, as the health sector battles COVID-19 and its fallout

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt penned an open letter to community pharmacy about the novel coronavirus and associated problems, and on Thursday the Morrison Government announced that it would now require community pharmacists to enforce new limits on dispensing and sales of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

This followed reports of significant shortages (on which the TGA and NPSA offered advice) following stockpiling behaviour due to concerns about the COVID-19 crisis, as well as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call to Australians on Wednesday not to hoard groceries and medicines, calling such actions “un-Australian”. Meanwhile Guild national president George Tambassis called for certainty via mechanisms such as signing the 7CPA.

We discovered reports that patients are presenting with prescriptions from GPs – after they’ve been tested for COVID-19 and asked to go into isolation. And Victorian pharmacist and GP Dr Jomini Cheong launched a petition to try and flatten the curve of the disease’s spread.

The Pharmacy Guild‘s APP Conference on the Gold Coast went ahead in a smaller, online format, beginning with a panel session on COVID-19, including a look at the most common ways it could be spread in pharmacy. We also heard from APP Online that thanks to the pandemic, the Government’s plan for 60-day dispensing was “dead in the water“.

There was a message for pharmacists who could pick up more shifts in community pharmacy: the sector needs you. And while the Pharmacy Guild was intending to announce the winner of its Pharmacy of the Year Award at APP this week, the announcement has been delayed, with pharmacies across the country flat chat dealing with the pandemic.

The newly announced Home Medicines Service, a temporary program to fund pharmacist medicines delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been slammed as under-funded.

PDL offered invaluable advice on managing risks posed by COVID-19 in pharmacy. There’s an “unprecedented” demand for salbutamol inhalers. The SHPA called for teleconsulting by pharmacists to be permitted. And rumours circulated that ibuprofen could worsen COVID-19 outcomes, which were addressed by organisations including the TGA and the United States’ FDA.

To everyone in pharmacy, we at AJP hope you are staying safe, and have good people to support you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if there’s anything you’d like us to cover or that you’d like to know, contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910 if you need a listening ear from another pharmacist, or PDL for members on 1300 854 838 to speak with a professional officer if you need advice or incident support.

We’ll leave you this week with words from the Guild’s Trent Twomey, speaking at APP Online: “Thank you to the 65,000 pharmacy assistants, many of them – most of them – young mums and the amount of stress and pressure that they are under,” he said. “I want to say thank you to the 35,000 pharmacists in Australia, who are not thinking about themselves, but are thinking about the 26 million Australians that they serve every day.”


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