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AMA challenges ‘continued dispensing’

12/12/2011

The AMA has written to all MPs and Senators urging their support for changes to the National Health Amendment (Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement Initiatives) Bill, which was introduced to Parliament last month.

The Bill in its current form would permit a significant change in the professional role of pharmacists that the AMA believes is not in the best interests of patients or the professional relationship between doctors and pharmacists.

The Bill would allow pharmacists to dispense prescription medication without a valid prescription and without consulting a patient’s doctor beforehand.  The Pharmacy Guild of Australia calls this ‘continued dispensing’, a practice that is strongly opposed by the AMA.

It is the AMA’s view that only doctors are adequately trained to make assessments about a patient’s clinical condition and the need for medical treatment.

Doctors place a high value on the professional role of pharmacists.  The professions work together to improve the medication management of patients and their clinical outcomes.  But continued dispensing represents a breakdown in this collaborative team-based approach to patient care.

A pharmacist has no way of knowing whether the patient’s doctor intends the patient to continue with a particular medication, to adjust it, or to cease that treatment.

The medico-legal risks of continued dispensing for both pharmacists and doctors if an adverse medication event occurs have not been explored.

Dispensing prescription medication without a prescription presents a fundamental conflict of interest – it allows the pharmacist to become both the prescriber and dispenser.

There is a bizarre twist in the Bill.

The Bill contains provisions that would require doctors to obtain an authority from Medicare clerks in order to prescribe additional repeats of oncology and palliative care medicines.  Yet, the Bill permits pharmacists to dispense prescription medicines without reference to anyone.

The AMA believes that there is no justification for the continued dispensing provisions of this Bill to be passed, as they are not in the best interests of patients.

JF