Health Minister Addresses AMA President’s Letter on Pharmacy Trials

Australian Medical Association

The response follows a letter from the AMA President outlining significant concerns with a number of state pharmacy trials.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, has responded to a letter from AMA President Professor Steve Robson highlighting the AMA’s significant concerns with the proposed pharmacy prescribing trials announced in a number of states.

While the minister’s response notes that he has minimal influence in state policies, he has said he will give consideration to raising some of the AMA’s concerns with health ministers. The minister also reaffirmed medicines prescribed by pharmacists are not eligible for PBS subsidy and patients will not receive an MBS rebate.

The letter from Professor Robson specifically sought the minister’s views on how these trials had undermined the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Poisons Standard in particular.

Significant time, effort and consultation contributes to the development of the Poisons Standard which is routinely reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS). The AMA actively contributes to these reviews and strongly supports the robust, transparent and independent process which contributes to the safety of Australian patients.

The trials announced in many states will allow pharmacists to prescribe Schedule 4 medicines, such as the oral contraceptive pill which was only reaffirmed as a Schedule 4 medicine in 2021. The decision by the ACMS noted that the “use of oral contraceptive pills can cause significant adverse effects that are not consistent with over-the-counter medicines”.

The AMA remains concerned that state governments can ignore independent advice on medicines safety, putting patients at risk.

Professor Robson’s letter also noted that these trials will make reform discussions much harder in the future as they have bypassed critical checks and balances in the system that are intended to protect patients. This includes the formal position of the Pharmacy Board of Australia, which is that autonomous prescribing is outside of the scope of pharmacists, and the Health Professionals Prescribing Pathway Project Final Report.

The AMA will continue to engage with the minister on these trials.

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