PUSH FOR CHANGE: The state government is considering changes to the scope of treatment pharmacists can offer.
PUSH FOR CHANGE: The state government is considering changes to the scope of treatment pharmacists can offer. JOHN G. MABANGLO

POWER TO PRESCRIBE: 'We're not taking patients from doctors'

FOOTING a doctor's bill to receive repeat medications or obtain a vaccination jab could soon be a thing of the past, as Queensland pharmacists push for changes that they say will bring Australia up to speed with the rest of the world.

Warwick pharmacy manager and Queensland Pharmacy Guild vice-president Chris Owen said the guild was lobbying for changes that would include offering a wider range of vaccinations, offering minor ailment management and sell medications such as the contraceptive pill.

As part of a push by the state's pharmacy representative body, patients could also buy non-addictive drugs used to treat conditions such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, asthma and dermatitis without going to a GP.

"What we're pushing for is an extended scope of practice, we're not trying to take patients away from doctors," Mr Owen said.

"We're not trying to do this as a money-making venture, we're doing it for patient access especially in rural areas."

Mr Owen said seeing doctors in rural areas could be challenging, so changes would help make healthcare more equitable and fast.

"All drugs have side effects and we're aware of the risks, it's not as though we're coming in from a blind point of view," he said.

"These are for non-chronic conditions where the risk is quite low, we're not going to be delving into complex cases."

Mr Owen said New Zealand already offered Viagra over the counter and in the United Kingdom pharmacists could give all vaccinations.

"In international areas, they can already do these things. Australia is a bit of a backwater when it comes to scope of pharmacists," he said.

Warwick doctor and Darling Downs Hospital and Health Services board executive member Ross Hetherington said he supported the idea in general, but wished to see more detailed guidelines and had concerns about dispensing Viagra over the counter due to its potential to cause harm to men with heart problems.

"I can't see it being a big issue, the number of people that would conceivably have side effects from medications, like the pill, young ladies getting migraines or clots, that's a consideration but I think it's a bit of a storm in a teacup," he said.

But Dr Hetherington said there were also medications he would like to see doctors able to dispense, such as antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications, without the assistance of pharmacists.

"When I'm writing a script out I'm telling the patient what to expect in terms of side effects. I presume that if I was going to be dispensing medications I'd have a limited range," he said.

"We have nurse practitioners that have a limited prescribing right, which is wonderful."

Dr Hetherington said he didn't think giving pharmacists greater power would take pressure off hospitals.

"The amount of time writing repeat scripts for the pill or seeing people for pill scripts is tiny, it won't make a difference," he said.

Mr Owen said there would be training and protocols in place to ensure pharmacists satisfied requirements and encouraged patients to maintain regular visits with doctors.