‘A cynical ploy’: RACGP President slams pharmacy coronavirus push

Doug Hendrie

4/03/2020 3:03:11 PM

Strong criticism has been levelled at the Pharmacy Guild for seizing on the coronavirus crisis to push for more power.

Woman in pharmacy
Dr Harry Nespolon described the push as ‘another example of the pharmacy sector trying to place financial gains ahead of patient care and safety’.

A cynical ploy that could cause tremendous harm.
That is how RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon describes calls from the Pharmacy Guild to give more power to pharmacists during the coronavirus crisis.
Dr Nespolon is clear in his response to reports the Guild has seized on the coronavirus outbreak to take on more tasks traditionally done by GPs.
‘This is a cynical ploy from the Pharmacy Guild to exploit COVID-19 to achieve long sought-after changes that will hand greater power to retail pharmacies,’ he said.
‘It is yet another example of the pharmacy sector trying to place financial gains ahead of patient care and safety.
‘Ensuring a patient’s continuity of care with their GP is vital. We don't just hand out medicines, we talk to our patients about preventive care, provide a check-up and carefully record their medical history.’

As reported in Nine Newspapers, Pharmacy Guild Vice President Trent Twomey has described the coronavirus outbreak as ‘a good catalyst’ for discussions around expanding the role of pharmacists.
The Guild is calling for pharmacists to be able to dispense common medication without a prescription.
‘The last thing you want to do in a pandemic is create a cluster where sick people congregate with people with the virus,’ Mr Twomey told Nine.
‘Frankly, state and federal governments can’t afford not to utilise the pharmacy workforce.’
But Dr Nespolon attacked the push as one that could cause major harm. 
He said the planned trial in Queensland permitting pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections is a strong example of the risks.
‘[The trial] is a recipe for disaster because one of the greatest challenges our healthcare system faces is antimicrobial resistance caused by the misuse and over-use of antibiotics,’ Dr Nespolon said.
‘We are already seeing increasing resistance to antibiotics in urinary tract infections, so handing pharmacists these prescription powers is bad news for public health and safety.’

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon has slammed the latest Guild push.

The RACGP President said that there are other avenues available to fight coronavirus.
‘If the Pharmacy Guild was serious about helping Australians during a pandemic, they would stop their opposition to an easing of dispensing restrictions,’ he said. ‘This would enable people to access two-month supplies of commonly prescribed medicines.
‘Unwell patients do not want to have to visit a pharmacy, where they will be surrounded by other unwell patients, more often than is absolutely necessary.
‘Perhaps it’s time that we look to the “Amazon model” of allowing delivery [of medications] to a patient’s home, again significantly decreasing the risk of exposure.’
The RACGP’s response is mirrored by Australian Medical Association President Dr Tony Bartone, who told Nine he is ‘really troubled by the Pharmacy Guild trying to expand the scope of their business’.
Dr Nespolon’s response follows renewed efforts by the Guild to move into medical areas of practice over the last few years.
In the wake of Guild lobbying, an increasing number of states and territories have been permitting pharmacists to offer vaccinations.
The most recent has been Queensland’s decision to allow pharmacists to deliver common travel vaccinations and to allow them to give the flu vaccine to children as young as 10.
Victoria is also permitting pharmacists to give flu vaccines to 10-year-olds.
The Guild is also pushing for autonomous pharmacist prescribing, though the Pharmacy Board of Australia last year all but ruled that out in a position statement.
The Pharmacy Board did, however, clear the way for collaborative prescribing undertaken alongside medical professionals, and structured prescribing with limited authorisation.
In response, the RACGP has consistently argued that:

  • pharmacists are not medically trained and are not a substitute for GPs
  • it is not appropriate to conduct sensitive health consultations in a busy retail pharmacy setting, where other customers may overhear private health conversations
  • retail pharmacies have financial and commercial conflicts of interest between prescribing and selling medications and services which are best for the patient or best for their business.
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Dr John Farrar Ainge   5/03/2020 7:32:19 AM

I noticed they have not offered to help with the screening load. Given so many of them now have consulting rooms maybe they could start taking swabs.

Dr Gaston Hubert Marie Boulanger   5/03/2020 7:53:02 AM

Attack is the best defence.

We should loby for: 3 months medication dispensing instead of monthly ( this will safe the community billions of dollars)

Ban homeopathy and other evidence based nonsense from pharmacies.

Ban non medical items from pharmacies.
Have all advertising in pharmacies reviewed, to see it is misleading.

Have pharmacist take the hippocrates oath after a
100 hours ethical course with exam (designed by the college)

AHPRA registration for pharmacists.
Strong sanction against pharmacists who mislead and sell non evidence based product ....


Dr Nisha Mahajan   5/03/2020 8:32:46 AM

Absolutely agree with Dr Nespolon.
Unrelated concern: Should the number of visitors in hospitals be restricted? Would that contain the spread of COVID-19? A doctor at Liverpool hospital in NSW has contracted COVID-19.

Dr Cho Oo Maung   5/03/2020 8:47:57 AM

Virus reduce the resistant. Secondary bacterial infection kills the body. Do we still have this concept ? Delaying use of appropriate Antibiotics could also lead to increase morbidity, unnecessary hospitalization and mortality.

Dr Amirizal Bin Elias   5/03/2020 9:34:59 AM

Take note medical defence insurers and lawyers. Time of plenty is ahead of you.
This new wannabe perscribers, I heard they makes loads of profits.

Dr Peter Angus MacIsaac   5/03/2020 10:06:03 AM

This epidemic will lead to changes in the system for every level of the health system, GPs included. GPs need to "expand our scope" - medicare paid telephone and telehealth consults, paid emergency repeat prescriptions and non patient contact consultations, paid nurse screening and immunisation capability (all long sought after and sensible reforms) and pharmacists emergency dispense repeats of medications for regular medications, technically valid script repeat or not (extend numbers of repeats and script use by dates). We can respond to the challenges by sensible tweaking of current processes and leave the long term reform debates to a less troubled time. Pharmacists are available for health advice - short of going to the GP. 90% + of health concerns people have every day do not get to the GP and less than 1% go to specialists and hospitals. We have to work together in the interest of our patients. Be careful of throwing stones, we live in a glass house to!

Dr John-Paul Timothy Sanggaran   5/03/2020 11:04:09 AM

Perhaps we should look at expanding our scope of practice into selling medications directly to our patients. Very convenient for them. If no one sees a conflict of interest with a pharmacist diagnosing and selling medications to a patient, then surely there can’t exist one when a doctor does it.

*please note facetious

Dr Prashanta Kumer Saha   5/03/2020 12:49:47 PM

Th question is "Are the pharmacy lobbies trying to be equal to doctors interms of privilege & capacity?" If the answer is yes - my advise will be to have Medicine degree
from a University first. Federal govt. should be guided by professionals who takes the
lead of the community & patients (GPs & other doctors). We strongly support & agree
with the voice he is raising for the GPs & for the best interest of the communities.