GPs’ alarm at looming pharmacy trial

THE Australian Medical Association has written to Queensland's 93 MPs in a bid to halt a controversial trial allowing pharmacists to dispense antibiotics for urinary tract infections to patients without a prescription.

In the letter, obtained by The Courier-Mail, AMA Queensland president Dilip Dhupelia cites safety concerns as a key reason for wanting to stop preparations for the trial, expected to begin within weeks.

"The proposals are sacrificing safety for convenience," he wrote to MPs.

The AMAQ, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine have all pulled out of a stakeholder reference group responsible for designing the pharmacy trial.

"Pharmacist prescribers have been linked to serious incidents and deaths in the UK," Dr Dhupelia told the state MPs.

He said attending a GP for a script also allowed them to offer patients other therapeutic advice at the same time.

"The evidence is clear. The pharmacy prescribing trial represents a threat to public safety and quality of care, which will result in poorer health outcomes for Queenslanders," Dr Dhupelia wrote.

Concerns have been raised with The Courier-Mail about the potential unnecessary use of antibiotics and the rise of superbugs in the community if pharmacists are allowed to dispense the drugs without patients requiring a doctor's prescription.

Problems with misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are also among issues doctors have with the trial.

In his letter to MPs, Dr Dhupelia said AMAQ supported all health professionals working within their scope of practice and their training but in a collaborative manner with doctors to achieve the best patient outcomes.


Pharmacy Guild of Australia Queensland branch president Trent Twomey has accused the AMAQ of a scare campaign.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia Queensland branch president Trent Twomey has accused the AMAQ of a scare campaign.


Queensland pharmacists can already give vaccines for influenza, whooping cough and measles to people from 16 years of age.

The Courier-Mail understands only registered pharmacists who have undergone additional training will take part in the antibiotics trial, expected to continue until the end of next year.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said he had been contacted by "countless women" who had experienced painful urinary-tract infections outside GP business hours.

He said they had been left with no choice but to suffer through the night or visit an emergency department.

"This trial is about making sure women have the treatment they need when they need it," Mr Miles said.

He said patient safety was always the biggest priority, and remained so for this pharmacy trial.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia Queensland branch president Trent Twomey described pharmacists as some of the most trusted primary healthcare professionals.

"It's disappointing that the doctors' union would seek to use unfounded fear and scare tactics to further their own interests ahead of the advancement of women's health," he said.

"As a part of the proposed trial, appropriately trained community pharmacists will be able to provide a limited range of antibiotics to patients who present with low-risk urinary-tract infections.

"This happens safely in New Zealand, the UK and Canada."