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AMA’s successful stand for sensible and safe pathology testing

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BY PROFESSOR ROBYN LANGHAM, CHAIR, MEDICAL PRACTICE COMMITTEE

One could be forgiven for thinking that he AMA thinks little of pharmacists, given the nature of the media reports around the recent successful AMA campaign to stop Amcal pharmacies ordering unnecessary pathology screening tests.

The truth is quite the opposite. The AMA greatly respects the valuable contribution pharmacists make in improving the quality use of medicines. Pharmacists working with doctors and patients can help ensure better medication adherence, improved medication management, and also help in providing education about medication safety.

The AMA agrees that pharmacists’ expertise and training are under-utilised in a commercial pharmacy environment where they are necessarily distracted by retail imperatives.

That is why the AMA is fully engaged in the current review of pharmacy remuneration and regulation being undertaken by an independent panel appointed by the Federal Government.

In a comprehensive submission to the panel lodged last year, the AMA was supportive of alternate models of funding being explored that would encourage and reward a focus on professional, evidence-based interactions with patients. Our submission also supported ongoing funding of effective and cost-effective pharmacist medication management programs, particularly those targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and a relaxation of the restrictive pharmacy location rules.

The panel has now released an interim report revealing its likely recommendations to Government on the future of pharmacy funding and regulation.

The proposed recommendations pick up on many of the AMA’s suggestions and concerns, and, if implemented, would radically improve the transparency of pharmacy funding and refocus government investment on evidence-based and cost effective services.

Unsurprisingly, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is highly critical of the report, slamming it as “without merit”, “ill-considered”, “threatening” and “undermining” as well as stating it has “serious concerns about the true intention of the review”.

Some of the key recommendations supported by the AMA include: 

  • banning the sale of homeopathic products from pharmacies altogether;
  • physically separating other complementary medicines from “pharmacy only” (schedule 2) and ‘pharmacist only’ (schedule 3) in pharmacies to better help consumers understand that these medicines have not been assessed for effectiveness in the same way as S2, S3 and prescription medicines;
  • moving the funding of pharmacist services programs from the Guild-controlled Community Pharmacy Agreement to other government funding streams to improve transparency and facilitate coordination with other primary health care programs;
  • removing current bureaucratic barriers to medicines programs and pharmacy services that hinder access to indigenous Australians; and
  • changing the pharmacy location rules with potential to improve options for pharmacy co-location with general practices.

The AMA is very supportive of the interim report and lodged a favourable submission in response in July.

Unfortunately, the Guild has already brokered a deal with the Coalition Government to shelve any changes to location rules in the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see what appetite the Government has for taking up the panel’s final recommendations, particularly given the next Federal election date is not so far away.

 

 

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