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Pfizer to be available from community pharmacies within weeks, as booster announcement welcomed by PSA

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the Federal Government’s decision to provide access to the Pfizer vaccine, including as a six-month booster shot, through pharmacies.

 

Today, the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, confirmed that Pfizer doses will shortly be available through pharmacies that are currently administering Moderna vaccines.

 

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has also provisionally authorised the Pfizer vaccine as a booster vaccine for individuals aged 18 years and above – a population booster program is expected to start no later than 8 November.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, was delighted by today’s developments and commended the Federal Government’s leadership on this front.

 

“Today is a day of significant progress in Australia’s COVID-19 response, as over 3,000 pharmacies who have already administered more than 1.5 million vaccinations, now have the opportunity to order and administer the Pfizer vaccine – and PSA applauds Minister Hunt for his leadership in this area.

 

“We are pleased to see that the Pfizer vaccine has been found safe and effective as a third dose for those aged over 18 years. This will enable eligible pharmacist immunisers to further protect their communities following the completion of the primary double dose course.

 

“Throughout the roll-out, PSA has strongly advocated that pharmacist immunisers should have access to all approved COVID-19 vaccines – simplifying vaccination options for patients and giving Australians greater choice.

 

“As we transition into the next phase of the national strategy, it is important that pharmacists are adequately remunerated for their involvement in the national population booster program – ensuring that they do not continue to run this service at a loss.

 

“Pharmacists administering the Pfizer vaccine will need to complete the Department of Health’s training module – and PSA will continue to support pharmacists through our CPD, practice-support and advocacy,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

PSA has supported Australian pharmacist immunisers thorough the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and is dedicated to continuing this support as more pharmacists commence administering the Pfizer vaccine.

 

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

Antigen testing still prohibited in South Australia

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is calling on the Marshall Government to amend current legislation which prohibits the use of rapid antigen testing in South Australia.

 

Current public health directions under the Emergency Management Act state that ‘a person must not use point-of-care antigen based or nucleic acid based tests as a tool to detect or diagnose COVID-19’.

 

PSA SA Branch President, Robyn Johns, said that amendments are well overdue, and South Australia risks falling behind the rest of the country.

 

“As rapid antigen testing becomes more prevalent across the nation, South Australia risks being left behind in our COVID-19 response if these legislative changes are not made.

 

“The benefits of antigen testing are clear, hence, why supermarket giants have recently announced they will be stocking tests for personal use as of next week. In the meantime, this out-of-date legislation is holding South Australia back.

 

“Whilst full vaccination decreases the risk of infection, pharmacists and pharmacy staff are not immune to isolation periods and resulting pharmacy closures. With other jurisdictions emerging from lockdowns and borders gradually reopening, we need to ensure we are using all the tools at our disposal to continue to detect COVID-19 in the community.

 

“Rapid antigen tests are key to ensuring pharmacies can remain open, and without these tests, the supply of essential medicines to the community may be jeopardised. We urge the Marshall Government to consider the dire impact such a scenario would have on regional communities.

 

“If these legislative roadblocks aren’t addressed immediately, we will fall behind the nation as we transition out of the pandemic – at the expense of those who need and deserve essential medicines,” Ms Johns said.

 

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

WA legislative barriers blocking rapid antigen testing use must be removed

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) WA Branch is calling for changes to public health orders regarding the use of rapid antigen testing across the state.

 

At present, the use of this diagnostic technology is currently prohibited by Directions under the Health Act, stating that, ‘a person must not use a Rapid Antigen Test as a tool to detect or diagnose COVID-19’. Its use is only permitted for logistical reasons and is yet to be expanded to the health workforce.

 

PSA WA Branch President, Keegan Wong, stressed that changes must be made to the legislation if the state is to keep up with the rest of the country.

 

“From next week, supermarket chains like Coles and Woolworths will be selling rapid antigen tests for at-home purposes, yet here in WA, there are still legislative barriers in place that are blocking its provision to health workers including our pharmacists.

 

“It is currently be used for transport, freight and logistics, testing drivers at the borders, but strangely, the legislation has not yet taken into account the state’s health workers. This goes to show that the McGowan Government is more concerned about border control than the welfare of those on the frontline.

 

“Antigen testing will become a cornerstone of life as the virus eventually spreads across the nation and will ultimately reduce the risk of pharmacy closures due to COVID-19 exposure and subsequent isolation periods for pharmacists and pharmacy staff. For Australia’s most geographically-dispersed state, it is imperative that communities continue to have access to essential medicines and health services.

 

“We need to see immediate amendment to this outdated piece of legislation, allowing the state to keep up to speed with the rest of the nation whose uptake of this technology is increasing.

 

“PSA calls on the McGowan Government to protect the interests and wellbeing of WA’s pharmacists and frontline health workers by removing these barriers,” Mr Wong said.

 

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

Medicine supply to Australian communities in jeopardy if antigen testing is not provided to pharmacies

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is calling on governments to protect our frontline healthcare workforce, and to ensure pharmacies remain open, by providing rapid antigen tests (RAT) for pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

 

While RAT is increasingly being used by governments to manage the risk of COVID-19 in various settings like parliaments, most governments are yet to utilise these tests to protect healthcare workers such as pharmacists.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, said that as jurisdictions come out of lockdowns, RAT must be used as part of the ongoing COVID-19 response to ensure pharmacies can remain open and communities have ongoing access to their medicines.

 

“Whilst it is pleasing to see that some antigen tests have been supplied in Australia, it is time for these tests to be utilised more broadly across our health system, including in pharmacies.

 

“With jurisdictions reopening, it’s likely we will continue to see a large number of pharmacies identified as exposure sites. Staff will still have to isolate and stores may have to temporarily close until PCR results are returned and deep cleaning has concluded. Rapid antigen tests expedite this process, returning results within 15 minutes.

 

“During such closures, patients would need to source their medicines from elsewhere – and whilst this may be an inconvenience for those living in metropolitan areas, it would have significant implications on rural and remote communities. We cannot have a situation where Australians are cut off from the medication that they need, and antigen testing is one of the keys to ensuring continuity of healthcare and access to essential medicines.

 

“Professional football teams, schools, abattoirs and various other industries are already utilising this technology. In the meantime, our pharmacists and pharmacy staff are in the firing line, putting themselves at risk on a daily basis as they continue to provide their communities with access to medicines and health services. It is the responsibility of governments to protect our healthcare workers and right now they are failing our pharmacists.

 

“It’s time to protect our frontline health workers by providing rapid antigen tests for pharmacists,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

Increase access to oral contraception by letting pharmacist do their jobs

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) calls on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to improve access to oral contraception.

 

Under the ‘continued dispensing’ arrangements in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have been safely dispensing oral contraceptives to patients who have previously been prescribed the medicine without a current prescription. The pandemic aside, Australian pharmacists have an eight-year track record of supplying oral contractive pills under continued dispensing arrangements, demonstrating their competence in continuing to perform this activity.

 

Yesterday, the TGA announced an interim decision which will revert to pre-pandemic arrangements, once again limiting a woman’s ability to access to oral contraceptives without a prescription through Australian pharmacies.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, said:

 

“This interim decision is very disappointing, and we will be responding to the TGA to reconsider their position before making a final decision. The benefits of improved access to oral contraception are clear. Well-established models exist overseas, where pharmacists can provide the medicine once it has previously been prescribed.

 

“Predictably, the Australian doctors’ lobby groups are more worried about ‘protecting their own turf’, than providing women with timely, cheaper and safe access to contraception. The public are sick of it. The AMA don’t bat an eyelid when it comes to fringe online prescription services but are comfortable in restricting access for Australian pharmacists.

 

“We have already seen the success of continued dispensing of oral contraceptives through the pandemic, and internationally, there are well-established models which demonstrate the success of pharmacists’ role in this process.

 

“We respect the TGA’s process and will continue to work closely with them over the coming weeks in order to improve access to medicines,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

Dr Fei Sim, Chair of the PSA’s Contemporary Community Pharmacy Practice Community of Specialty Interest (CCPP-CSI), said:

 

“It is very disappointing to see the AMA and RACGP continue advocating to restrict women’s access to the oral contraceptive pill. To say that this decision preserves safe access to this critical medicine is ludicrous – one that does not take into consideration the best interests of patients. As Australia’s most accessible health care providers, pharmacists are ideally placed to support patients to access this critical medicine.

 

“Time is quite literally of the essence when patients are seeking access to contraception, therefore, we must have a process in place that enables safe access to such medication, without the red tape. When it comes to contraception, it is imperative that we have a patient-centric approach, one that Australian women need and deserve.

 

“The same rhetoric we saw in the initial stages of pharmacists providing immunisations has now resurfaced, whereby, doctors’ groups advocated against immunisations being administered by pharmacists for the same hollow reason they want to restrict access to contraception. Now, pharmacists’ true impact on the COVID rollout has been demonstrated by administering over 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccinations,” Dr Sim said.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

PSA welcomes WA vaccine mandate for health workers

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the McGowan Government’s announcement that COVID-19 vaccinations will become mandatory for primary and community health workers.

 

Yesterday, the WA Health Minister announced that to attend their workplace, health care workers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This will protect health care workers and their patients, and will mitigate the risk of further transmission through primary care setting like pharmacies and general practice.

 

From 1 November, in order to enter these worksites, a worker must have received their first dose of the vaccine, with the second dose to be received by 1 December.

 

PSA WA Branch President, Keegan Wong, said: “PSA applauds the McGowan Government’s decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for the West’s frontline health workers, demonstrating their commitment to protecting our community.

 

“It is imperative that Western Australians have the confidence that these settings, and those who work within, are compliant with the health advice. We cannot have a situation where vulnerable members of the community remain anxious about contracting this disease through clinical settings like pharmacies and hospitals, especially as we learn to live alongside it.

 

“This move will protect our staff, patients, consumers and the community at large and we are glad to see that the state has followed Victoria and Tasmania’s lead on this front.

 

“Whilst this is good news for the state, we also recognise those extenuating circumstances where health workers have genuine medical contraindications to vaccination – and PSA is reassured a process exists to support this very small cohort,” Mr Wong concluded.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

UPDATE: Setting the standard for safety and quality across primary care: PSA welcomes release of National Safety and Quality Primary and Community Healthcare Standards

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the launch of new safety and quality standards keeping Australians safe when accessing primary health care, including care provided by pharmacists.

 

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care today launched the National Safety and Quality Primary and Community Healthcare Standards, setting clear and consistent standards for safety and quality across all primary and community healthcare service providers.  A broad range of healthcare services directly involved in patient care, including general practice, allied health providers and community pharmacy, will be encouraged to implement the standards to protect the public from harm and improve the quality of health care delivered.

 

Importantly, the standards set minimum requirements for medicine safety. This is critical as more than 250,000 Australians are admitted to hospital each year due to medicine-related problems, at a cost in excess of $1.4 billion annually to the health system.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, said: “PSA welcomes this framework. The standards set new common expectations for all primary and community healthcare providers – including community pharmacies, general practices, dentists or sole traders such as accredited pharmacists.

 

“We appreciate the Commission’s recognition of existing profession-specific standards and accreditation programs. We expect existing sector-specific quality assurance programs, such as the Quality Care Pharmacy Program and the RACGP accreditation standards will evolve to include assessment and accreditation against this new national safety and quality standard.

 

“As these programs evolve, these standards will strengthen, rather than replace these accreditation requirements.

 

“As patients, their families and governments look for reassurance that our health system is safe, having a common set of standards for all healthcare providers will be welcome.

 

“Earlier this year, PSA made a submission to the Commission and expressed support, in particular, for the inclusion of requirements on medication safety, comprehensive care, communication for safety, and preventing and controlling healthcare-associated infection. These will help mitigate clinical safety risks commonly encountered in primary health care.

 

“The incorporation of ‘medication safety’ in the standards is timely and aligns with PSA’s Medicine Safety series reports and call to improve medication safety in Australia, as well as ‘Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety’ being declared the 10th National Health Priority Area in 2019,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

PSA welcomes the ACT’s commitment to pill testing

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the ACT Government’s commitment to harm minimisation by funding a pilot for a fixed-site pill testing service.

 

This week’s ACT Budget provides funding for a six-month pilot program which will support the harm minimisation initiative, pill testing. This service provides analysis of the content of illicit drugs, warning users about unknown and potentially lethal contaminants.

 

PSA considers pill testing and drug checking to be consistent with the principles of harm reduction and supports further trials to inform the role of pill testing and drug checking within Australia. PSA believes that these trials should occur both at music festivals and also within or near other environments where illicit drug use occurs.

 

PSA ACT Branch President, Renae Beardmore, applauded the Barr Government’s commitment.

 

“It is great to see that tackling the highly-controversial topic of pill testing remains on the Chief Minister’s agenda. Illicit drug use is an incredibly complex and challenging issue for our community, and contributes significantly to the total burden of disease and injury in Australia.

 

“Pill testing and drug checking aims to provide consumers with credible information about the risks of consuming particular substances. The intent of pill testing and drug checking is not to provide the impression the tested substances are safe, as they remain illegal and potentially very harmful.

 

“PSA supports Australia’s commitment to harm minimisation as outlined in the National Drug Strategy. This includes support for initiatives which reduce demand, reduce harm and reduce supply of illicit drugs.

 

“Such services have been trialled and tested across European countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and France – providing conclusive evidence that pill testing saves lives. Here in Canberra, pill testing has been trialled at Groovin the Moo music festival in 2018 and 2019 – this saw patrons, who had dangerous drugs identified, dispose of the drugs in amnesty bins. In the 2019 trial, 28 percent of patrons noted that they would use less of the drug than initially intended. These results attest to the findings of these European country.

 

“As medicine safety experts, pharmacists can have a key role in this intervention and in the provision of such advice. Pharmacists have a long and established role in harm minimisation, from Opioid Replacement Therapy and needle and syringe programs, to providing naloxone over the counter. Pharmacists also have extensive experience in handling restricted substances.

 

“There are many ACT pharmacists that work in the harm minimisation space and some have the particular skillset that would make them perfect for involvement in trials and subsequent implementation of ongoing pill testing and drug checking services.

 

“By providing tailored support and information on drug use and associated harms, consumers will be empowered to make informed decisions when considering use of a substance.

 

“Law enforcement by itself does not stop people from dying, and in some cases can exacerbate outcomes from drug consumption – but pill testing, as a supplementary strategy, can. PSA looks forward to providing support to ACT Health in rolling out this initiative,” Ms Beardmore said.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

1 million COVID-19 jabs administered by pharmacists!

According to today’s data from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR), 1 million COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered by pharmacists since community pharmacists started administering vaccines.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, said that pharmacists are key to getting Australia’s vaccination rates over the line.

 

“Today, pharmacists have achieved yet another milestone in the vaccine rollout, administering more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations to Australians.

 

“Pharmacist immunisers have been the key to bolstering vaccination rates across the country, and community pharmacy has managed the surge in demand brilliantly. This patient-centric approach is evidently paying dividends, with states like NSW and ACT now within touching distance of life-after-lockdown.

 

“Just yesterday, almost 40,000 vaccines were administered by pharmacists, a staggering achievement. It is apparent that increased vaccine choice and greater accessibility is having a positive impact amongst the community.

 

“To all those pharmacists who have remained open beyond business hours and on weekends in order to vaccinate their communities, I thank you – but moreover, Australia thanks you.

 

“Local pharmacies have fridges full of both AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, so I encourage all who remain unvaccinated to book in for their vaccination with their local pharmacist,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

PSA is dedicated to supporting pharmacists in delivering all COVID-19 vaccines both safely and effectively to the public.

 

Last week, 1st October, national eligibility for Moderna was expanded to include those aged over 60 years, offering greater vaccine choice and access to mRNA through pharmacies.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

Victorian antigen tests welcomed by PSA – more needed

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the Victorian Government’s move to secure additional rapid antigen tests (RAT) for hospitals. However, government-funded routine RAT for community pharmacies is essential to ensure continuity of essential health services.

 

Yesterday, the Victorian Government announced they will secure 2.2 million rapid antigen tests for the Victorian health system, most of which are likely to be utilised through the hospital sector.

 

PSA Victorian Branch President, John Jackson, commended the move and called for government-funded rapid antigen testing for community pharmacists and their staff to be prioritised.

 

“We welcome the Victorian Government’s commitment to the funding of rapid antigen testing for hospitals. The provision of RAT will help protect Victoria’s hospitals workers, including pharmacists.

 

“Whilst this is welcomed news for the hospital sector and the pharmacists who work in hospitals, there is urgent need for antigen testing in our local pharmacies. On what seems to be a daily basis, pharmacies are being listed as exposure sites across locked down states. As a result, these pharmacies are required to close, and staff forced to isolate – we cannot afford further closures and must protect the health and wellbeing of Australia’s most accessible health care workforce, pharmacists,” Mr Jackson said.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, said: “Rapid antigen testing would allow community pharmacies to bring their workforce back sooner. Returned in less than 15 minutes, negative rapid antigen tests will provide health authorities and community pharmacies with the confidence to reopen sooner, ensuring their communities continue to have access to essential medicines and health services such as vaccinations.

 

“At a quarter of the cost of a PCR test, rapid antigen testing must form a major part of the country’s COVID-19 response – allowing asymptomatic staff to be tested quickly, ensuring a safer workplace and maintaining community access to medicines and services.

 

“Now that Australians are seeing light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, how we manage this disease and future outbreaks will be the real challenge. Rapid antigen testing must be a cornerstone of life beyond COVID-19 – it will play a crucial role in limiting targeted lockdowns and protecting society’s most vulnerable,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463