Healthy debate or turf war? Pharmacists and doctors in angry stoush

A professional turf war has broken out between the bodies representing doctors and pharmacists over the right of pharmacists to prescribe drugs for medical conditions.

Feb 23, 2022, updated Feb 23, 2022
Doctors have questioned the wisdom of allowing pharmacists to prescribe treatments to some patients. (Image: supplied)

Doctors have questioned the wisdom of allowing pharmacists to prescribe treatments to some patients. (Image: supplied)

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Queensland branch has accused the State branch of the Australian Medical Association of “smacking of desperation” and stooping to a new low after it launched a campaign questioning the benefits of pharmacists prescribing treatment for common illnesses.

The war of words broke out after the AMAQ issued a lengthy press release on Tuesday, asking if bladder cancer diagnoses were “missed” because pharmacists were allowed to sell antibiotics for possible urinary tract infections.

And the AMAQ called on Queensland Health to release the results of a trial of the system, in place since 2018.

“Queensland Health and the Pharmacy Guild recently declared it a success and a huge win for women’s health.

“However, they have not released any evidence of the health outcomes for the women involved. UTIs are not always a simple bacterial infection. UTI symptoms are common to other serious health issues, including bladder cancer, chlamydia and kidney infections,” AMAQ president, Professor Chris Perry said.

The trial, at the time, was opposed by hospital pharmacists, urologists, infectious disease specialists and doctors, he said.

“It was not a clinically-registered trial, and the only evaluation we have seen so far is the number of prescriptions written. We don’t know how many pharmacists performed a basic urine test before diagnosing a bacterial infection and selling antibiotics,” Perry said.

“We don’t know if any follow-up was done to see how many patients subsequently sought further treatment form a GP, or presented to an emergency department or were later diagnosed with a more serious condition, including cancer.”

But a spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s State branch hit back.

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“Today’s media release from AMAQ, titled ‘Were bladder cancer diagnoses missed?’, is just another in a long line of ‘chicken little’ commentary that is factually incorrect,” the spokesperson said.

“We are beyond gobsmacked that AMAQ would deliberately seek to instil fear in women about cancer when they have been successfully treated for a non-complex UTI. This is reprehensible and a new low for the AMAQ.”

The Pharmacy Guild said that at a grassroots level, community pharmacists work collaboratively with doctors and patients to deliver the best of health care.

“Clearly the leadership of AMAQ is out of touch with its dwindling membership.

“Just a few years ago the AMAQ claimed lives would be lost if anyone other than GPs were allowed to offer vaccinations. They were wrong then and they are wrong now,” the spokesperson said.


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