Two pharmacists from Alive Pharmacy Warehouse at Westcourt will become the first in Far North Queensland to be able to prescribe up to 23 medications to patients without a doctor’s prescription next year.
As part of the North Queensland Scope of Practice Pilot announced in 2022, which has since been expanded statewide, Alive Pharmacy DFO head pharmacist Firouzeh Farihi and Alive Pharmacy managing director Georgina Twomey are completing one year of studies and by early 2024 they will become the first prescribing pharmacists in Cairns.
“We won’t be prescribing everything, only about 23 elements, and we’re looking to address mostly prescription renewals, so we’ll be able to give you that prescription for one repeat until you see your doctor,” Ms Twomey said.
“We’ll be able to prescribe anything for gastro reflux, weight loss medication, contraceptives, some blood pressure medications, anything for ear infections, acne medication from antibiotic to topical and more,” she said.
The pilot program, which was launched by the state government to help the GP shortages in regional areas, requires a standard consultation and a physical examination (if necessary) with a pharmacist, who will then be able to prescribe within the range of medications authorised.
“It’s very exciting because we will be some of the first pharmacists in the country who will be able to write prescriptions,” Ms Farihi said.
“That’s a huge step for pharmacies and our profession as well, and it’s something that’s being applied all over the world and we think that Australian patients should get the same as patients overseas,” she said.
The program has been met with opposition from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) which said that the program could put patient’s lives at risk.
However Pharmacy Guild of Australia Queensland branch president Chris Owen said the focus of the pilot was helping patients and working with doctors.
“The aim of the pilot is to supplement – not replace – existing primary healthcare services,” he said.
“If a patient can receive healthcare in a timely manner by their local community pharmacist, this may prevent them waiting weeks to see their GP or presenting to the emergency department.
“This will also support GPs by having greater capacity to have appointments, see their patients with more complex needs, including longer consultations.
“Patients in North Queensland will soon be able to receive treatment by trained community pharmacists in a safe and private consultation room when they need it.”
Ms Farihi said it would be a significant step up for healthcare in the region.
“It’ll mean less waiting time to see your GP, less people likely to end up in the hospital and more comfort for people who won’t have to delay their treatment,” she said.