| 04.12,11. 01:04 AM |
Get contraceptive pill without seeing your GP
December 04, 2011
PHARMACISTS would be able to issue some prescription-only medicines without patients seeing a GP as early as July under a plan that has doctors furious.
Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton has urged all MPs and senators to oppose changes to legislation introduced last week by federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon.
Among the drugs that could be dispensed without a doctor's script are the oral contraceptive pill, some medications for chronic conditions and selected cholesterol-lowering medications.
"The Bill would allow pharmacists to dispense prescription medication without a valid prescription and without consulting a patient's doctor beforehand," Dr Hambleton said.
"The Pharmacy Guild of Australia calls this 'continued dispensing', a practice that is strongly opposed by the AMA. Only doctors are adequately trained to make assessments about a patient's clinical condition and the need for medical treatment."
But Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Grant Kardachi supported the proposed changes, arguing it would allow continued care for patients.
"Pharmacists will not be able to diagnose a patient, it is not replacing a doctor, just continuing the same medication," Mr Kardachi said.
"People won't be able to come back every month. It will only help out if there's a lost script, misplaced or if someone can't get to the GP. It's not intended to be a regular way of accessing the medication."
But head of Doctors Action, Adrian Sheen, said a pharmacist had no way of knowing whether the patient's doctor intended the patient to continue with a particular medication, to adjust it, or cease that treatment.
"Anything that takes care away from the family doctor is inherently bad," Dr Sheen said. "When someone comes in for a prescription we also want to check blood pressure, ask women if they are up to date with their pap smear.
I don't support any method that cuts out the family doctor," he said.
"It won't be long before blood pressure medications and antibiotics are prescribed by the pharmacist's assistant."
A spokesman for Ms Roxon said the measure didn't expand the pharmacist's role to include prescribing under the PBS.
"This change is about helping everyday Australians get access to two low-risk groups of medicines -- cholesterol-lowering statins and contraceptive pills -- with strict protocols in place for pharmacists to follow," the spokesman said.
Ms Roxon's Bill is being moved through federal Parliament and the measures could begin in July next year.