‘Who is going to train these pharmacists?’


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The president of the AMA in Queensland has written to the state health minister urging him to reconsider the pharmacy contraceptive pill and UTI trial

In April, the Queensland Government responded to the report into the establishment of a Pharmacy Council and transfer of ownership in Queensland, which also looked into pharmacist scope of practice.

It announced that it would “develop, implement and evaluate a state-wide trial to provide low-risk emergency and repeat prescriptions for the contraceptive pill and antibiotics for urinary tract infections”.

The announcement has received considerable pushback from doctor groups, who have called it a risk for the development of “super-bugs” and a threat to patient health.

Now, Queensland AMA president Dr Dilip Dhupelia – who previously described the trial as “reckless and dangerous,” has written to Health Minister Steven Miles asking him not to go ahead with the trial, but instead to wait for national regulations to be decided by the Council of Australian Governments.

Dr Dhupelia said GPs had genuine concerns about patient safety and were worried that allowing pharmacists to dispense medications could lead to further overuse of antibiotics, rendering them ineffective.

“The Queensland Health Minister’s decision has gazumped the national considerations now underway by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee,” Dr Dhupelia said.

“AMA Queensland believes there should be national uniformity in such decisions and Queensland shouldn’t be going it alone.”

Dr Dhupelia pointed out that in NSW, Health Minister Brad Hazzard had rejected PSA calls for such a trial.

“When the New South Wales Health Minister dismissed calls for a similar trial, he agreed it should be dealt with at a national level so as not to lead to different prescribing practices in different states,” he wrote.

Dr Dhupelia said Mr Miles’ decision to allow a trial also went against the recommendation of the Therapeutic Goods Administrations Independent Advisory Committee on Scheduling, which warned in 2015 against pharmacists dispensing of oral contraceptives.

He said that only doctors could determine what medication was suitable for a patient after reviewing their full medical history.

“Who is going to train these pharmacists? Who is going to decide what they need to know to allow them to safely dispense Schedule 4 medications?” he said.

He also complained that the Queensland Government had not consulted with AMA Queensland before green-lighting the trial.

The Minister had indicated he would work with AMA Queensland on these issues but we learned that the trial was going ahead through the media,” he said.

“GPs are rightly concerned that, once we open the floodgates, the pressure will be on to allow pharmacists to dispense an expanded list of medications, then where does it stop?

“This would only lead to further fragmentation of care and put at risk the health and well-being of patients.

“This is a blatant push by the pharmacy sector and the State Government has condoned the move. We mustn’t put convenience ahead of our health.”

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