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Guild Commends State and Territory Health Ministers

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has commended Labor and Liberal State and Territory Health Ministers for raising legitimate concerns with Federal Minister Greg Hunt about the need to manage the up-scheduling of codeine and has called on doctors’ groups to engage constructively on this issue.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said that State and Territory Health Ministers are justifiably concerned that the up-scheduling will clog up doctors’ practices and emergency departments, leaving patients with temporary acute pain such as headache, toothache and menstrual pain without timely access to treatment.

“The State and Territory Health Ministers have rightly pointed out in their letter to the Federal Minister that this will be particularly problematic in rural and regional areas where GP access is often spasmodic and non-existent after hours,” Mr Tambassis said.

The AMA’s Northern Territory President, Dr Rob Parker has echoed these concerns telling the NT News on 8 August:

“The problem is if you get a toothache at 6pm you are restricting people who actually need it and can’t access a doctor. That’s been my concern all along.”

“While the Guild and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia are not seeking to overturn the TGA decision to up-schedule these medicines to prescription-only, we are asking governments to support a common sense exception whereby pharmacists could supply these medicines for the temporary treatment of acute (not chronic) pain under a strict protocol with extra training and a mandatory requirement for electronic real time monitoring to identify non-legitimate misuse.

“In MedsASSIST, community pharmacies around Australia have already put such a system in place, very significantly reducing the number of codeine purchases and providing support to at-risk patients, including referring them to GPs and pain and addiction management services.

The AMA has previously embraced such an approach stating in its May 2015 submission to the TGA:

“There are also alternatives to up-scheduling that could be considered, for example, introducing pharmacy requirements to record codeine dispensing in the same way as for pseudoephedrine.”

“Unfortunately, doctors have no such real time monitoring system in place in any mainland State or Territory to provide visibility of patients who are doctor shopping for codeine.

“The Guild’s solution is common sense and it is responsible. It upholds the TGA up-scheduling decision while providing an exception that would maintain convenient access for patients who legitimately use these medicines to treat short term acute pain. A mandatory pharmacy real time monitoring system would provide a strong safeguard to prevent misuse and support at-risk patients.

“Now that the States and Territories have pointed out their concerns, it is time for doctors’ groups to put an end to their shrill and overblown rhetoric and engage constructively to find a solution that is in the interests of patients and the broader health system,” Mr Tambassis said.

Media inquiries: Greg Turnbull 0412 910261

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