GPs blast ‘out-of-control’ pharmacists

(Amanda Chambers/University of Alabama at Birmingham via AP)

A war of words has erupted between the peak bodies for general practitioners and community pharmacy owners, with one side accused of whipping up a media frenzy after they labelled the other out of control.

The confrontation was sparked by reporting of a speech given by Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey, who allegedly labelled GPs “twits” who allowed their sector to become commercialised.

In his speech to students in Canberra, Professor Twomey pushed for pharmacists to be given greater powers to prescribe medications.

“We do not support, at the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, being able to only prescribe if someone else is looking over my shoulder,” Prof Twomey said, according to reporting in the Australian Journal of Pharmacy.

“You don’t see a plumber needing to look over the shoulder of an electrician before they put in your air conditioner.”

He went on to explore the benefits of pharmacists being able to prescribe, dispense, administer and review medications.

The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said the speech was nothing short of astonishing.

“The Pharmacy Guild is out of control,” Dr Nicole Higgins said in a statement.

She said the speech should send a shiver down the spines of politicians everywhere.

“The language used, the brazen way he addresses very serious health care issues and the underlying arrogance informing this speech demonstrates that the Pharmacy Guild should be approached warily.”

Prof Twomey discussed issues facing the entire health system, which he reportedly described as “stuffed”.

In Queensland, pharmacists are allowed to refill and prescribe certain medications and similar pilots are being rolled out in Victoria and NSW, partly as a way to reduce pressure on GP clinics.

Dr Higgins said “band-aid solutions” such as extending prescribing powers would not fix the GP crisis. 

“Part of the skill of general practice is knowing when not to prescribe,” Dr Higgins said. 

“The Pharmacy Guild seems to think that everything can be fixed with a drug.

“Pharmacists just don’t have the expertise and training to perform the function of prescribing medications, that is a job that should be left to medical practitioners.”

The Pharmacy Guild hit back, saying Prof Twomey stood by the speech and would always speak out in the best interests of patients while promoting safe, evidence-based health care.

“It is disappointing, but unsurprising, that the (GP group) has repurposed Professor Twomey’s comments to whip up a media frenzy,” a spokesperson said in a statement.


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