A response from doctors, including concerns over the integrity of government decision-making in Queensland, has reversed a proposed trial that would allow pharmacists to prescribe medicines.
Most important points:
- Pilot program allowing pharmacists in Northern Queensland to prescribe medicines for up to 23 conditions has been delayed
- Pharmacists would undergo at least 120 hours of training under the proposal
- dr. Maria Boulton, president of the Australian Medical Association of Queensland, has described the proposal as a “dangerous experiment”.
The North Queensland pilot project was originally scheduled to start in June and there is no official explanation for the delay.
The Pharmacy Guild says it is not aware of the cause of the delay, but Chris Owen, the president of the Queensland division, said its members wanted the trial to begin as soon as possible.
“Whether we have to wait a few months is here or there… the important thing is that it happens,” he told 07:30.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’ath has declined to answer 7.30am questions about the delay, but said in a statement that the government is sticking to its “election commitment”.
“We recognize that the AMAQ (Australian Medical Association of Queensland) has raised concerns and we have reached out to them to address them.”
AMAQ President Dr. Maria Boulton says the whole concept is flawed.
“This is not a solution,” Dr Boulton said.
“Patients deserve doctors. They don’t deserve a dangerous experiment that endangers their health.”
Details revealed in leaked concept document
The proposal aims to set up a pilot program in Northern Queensland that would allow pharmacists to prescribe certain drugs that would normally require a doctor’s prescription.
The Pharmacy Guild says this will help alleviate the crisis caused by the shortage of GPs.
“The most important thing is that patients have timely access to available health care,” Owen said.
A draft document, which was leaked earlier this year, outlines some of the proposed details of the process.
Pharmacists who have completed at least 120 hours of training gain the power of “autonomous prescribing” for up to 23 common or chronic conditions and requests, including reflux, acute nausea, oral health screening, allergies, hay fever, asthma, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and oral contraception .
The AMAQ withdrew from consultations with the Queensland Government earlier this year after seeing the full scope of the proposal.
“If you’re thinking about flying on an airplane, would you trust a bus driver with a bus driver’s license to fly your plane after 120 hours of online tutorials?” said Dr. Boulton.
“It’s pretty clear with the conflict of interest, if you’re the one prescribing something that you’re going to sell later, that’s your conflict there.
“There must be a separation between prescribing and selling.”
While acknowledging a potential conflict of interest, Mr. Owen states that there is also a “national requirement to provide the best possible outcomes” for the patient.
“That exists, whether it’s a pharmacy or a drug,” he said.
dr. Simon Jackson is a GP in rural South Australia, where waiting for a GP can take up to six weeks.
He believes pharmacists can be part of the solution to the GP crisis, but he says pharmacists should work with doctors and not independently.
“Every drug has its risks, every drug has its potential side effects,” he said.
“I think that really needs to be properly reviewed before prescribing it to a patient.”
Concerns About Pharmacy Guild Influence
The AMAQ also complained to the recent Coaldrake Review on the culture and accountability of the public sector in Queensland about the Pharmacy Guild’s undue influence through political donations and the use of paid lobbyists.
“We don’t know what effect that has had, but that’s something for the government to answer,” Dr Boulton said at 7.30am.
Minister D’ath did not answer the 7:30am questions about lobbying people in her office, but said her government would continue to consult widely.
“We will work with stakeholders to provide training and ensure those participating in the pilot meet strict safety and eligibility requirements,” she said.
Reveals from the Queensland Electoral Commission show that the Pharmacy Guild has donated $78,000 to the Labor Party and $53,950 to the LNP over the past two years.
Yvette D’ath has previously denied that she was influenced by these donations.
The state lobby register also shows 18 contacts this year between senior officials from the office and department of the Secretary of Health, involving two lobbying firms representing the Pharmacy Guild – Hawker Britton and Anacta, which is also a major donor to the Labor Party.
Chris Owen said the Pharmacy Guild employed Anacta to sit at the table.
“Anacta has certainly worked with us to provide a great policy platform,” he said.
An Anacta spokesperson said both the LNP and Labor committed themselves to the pharmacy survey ahead of the 2020 election.
“Anacta was hired by the Pharmacy Guild of Queensland two years later, in March 2022. Part of our contact program on her behalf covered implementation aspects of the full-scope study.”
Watch this story tonight at 7:30 PM on ABC TV and ABC iview.