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Over-the-counter pill, Viagra a bad idea: AMA

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Proposals to allow women and men to buy reproductive medications such as the contraceptive pill and Viagra over the counter without prescription are fraught with danger, the AMA has warned.

Pressure is mounting to relax restrictions on access to commonly prescribed drugs as pharmacists come under increased financial strain and the Therapeutic Goods Administration undertakes a review of the scheduling of medicines.

A submission before the TGA has proposed that pharmacists be allowed to dispense the pill to patients who fill out a small questionnaire detailing any family history of heart problems, hypertension or stroke.

And the Australian Self Medication Industry wants Australia to copy New Zealand’s move to allow over-the-counter sales of Viagra, as well as flu vaccines and treatments for urinary tract infections and migraines.

But Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice Dr Brian Morton told the Adelaide Advertiser it would be dangerous to give people access to such medications without the supervision of a doctor.

Dr Morton said the pill carried with it the risk of stroke, and doctors were required to assess this risk, as well as provide advice on other aspects of reproductive health such as the need for regular Pap smears – intimate conversations that would be very difficult to conduct discretely in a chemist shop.

He warned that, in the long term, there could be “dramatic impacts” from such a change: “We’ll go back to the bad old days of cervical; cancer because women won’t be having Pap smears”.

Dr Morton said that, similarly, giving people access to Viagra without investigating why erectile dysfunction was occurring raised the possibility that a serious health issue would go undiagnosed.

“Erectile dysfunction in young [or] middle-aged men is usually related to lifestyle and health issues like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, depression and alcohol misuse, so you run the risk of the cause not being looked at,” he told Six Minutes.

The debate arose as supermarket giant Woolworths has stepped up its lobbying effort to convince the Federal Government to relax some of the rules governing retailing, including restrictions on the ownership of pharmacies.

Under current rules, pharmacies must be owned by a qualified pharmacist, and there are geographic restrictions on where they can be placed.

The regulations have prevented the major supermarket chains from achieving their long-held ambition to open on-site pharmacies.

So far, however, the Federal Government appears to have no interest in loosening the rules governing the ownership and placement of pharmacies.

Adrian Rollins

 

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