Covid antivirals must be made available from community pharmacies

The Australian and all State and Territory Governments must as a matter of urgency make the COVID anti-viral medicines available from community pharmacies without a prescription.

National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Professor Trent Twomey, said the current GP shortage meant patient wait times were endangering those with COVID-19.

“This is backed by recently revealed Healthengine data. For example, in 2019 the average wait time in Victoria was 1.98 days and now it’s 3.33 days. WA and NSW are the worst-performing States, where a patient has to wait an average of 4 and 4.17 days respectively to see a GP,” Professor Twomey said.

“These wait times are unacceptable. Given the treatment program of these life-saving anti-viral medicines needs to commence within five days of the initial onset of COVID-19 symptoms, it’s vital that patients test early and often and receive treatment without long delays due to the lack of GP appointments.”

Professor Twomey said New Zealand had recently followed the example of Canada and the United Kingdom and made the COVID-19 anti-viral medicines available at local community pharmacies across the country to ensure its citizens received timely access to these life-saving medicines.

“Australian patients deserve the same access to the COVID-19 antivirals,” he said.

“Community pharmacists in Australia have the skills, expertise and knowledge to assist patients so there is no reason for delaying treatment to eligible patients.

“As highly trained medicine experts, pharmacists understand drug interactions, can adjust dosing as required and refer more complex patients to a medical practitioner to ensure better triaging across limited GP appointments.

“If Australia followed the New Zealand example, we could greatly reduce COVID-19 hospitalisations, increase the number of patients receiving treatment in a timely manner, increase productivity and save hundreds of millions of dollars in hospital expenditure by empowering community pharmacy;

“Community pharmacists continue to demonstrate their important role in primary care with the delivery of over 8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations nationally and the recent positive results from the Urinary Tract Infection prescribing pilot in Queensland being a testimony to the robustness of pharmacists’ skills and competencies in this country.”

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