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3 August 2023, 11:34
Legislative Council of Victoria, Melbourne.

David ETTERSHANK (Member for Western Metropolitan):

I rise to make a brief contribution on the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Authorising Pharmacists) Bill 2023. The bill amends the act to establish a 12-month community pharmacist statewide pilot program, authorising pharmacists to dispense, use, administer, supply and sell certain schedule 4 drugs without a prescription, including oral contraceptives, travel vaccines, medicines for urinary tract infections (UTIs) and minor skin conditions. The pilot will be evaluated by an advisory committee after the 12-month program, and if successful, pharmacists will continue to provide this service into the future. Legalise Cannabis Victoria is happy to support this bill.

The program should make it easier for Victorians to access high-volume, low-risk primary care. It will relieve pressure on GPs and increase accessibility, particularly in remote and regional areas, where we know people often wait a considerable time to see a doctor. It will allow those GPs to focus on more complex needs patients. It will be particularly welcomed by women. After an initial consultation with a doctor women will be able to obtain oral contraceptives without having to see a doctor each time a prescription runs out. As my colleague Ms Payne will expand upon, women trying to obtain oral contraceptives or medication to treat urinary tract infections – a very common condition for women – need to be able to access these treatments as quickly as possible with minimal inconvenience.

Similar programs have already been implemented in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom and Canada. Closer to home, the urinary tract infection community pharmacy service pilot was completed in Queensland in 2022. An evaluation of that program by Professor Lisa Nissen at the Queensland University of Technology concluded that the program delivered safe and appropriate care that aligns to clinical protocols and that pharmacists have the appropriate skills, competencies and training to manage the treatment of uncomplicated UTIs in the community pharmacy setting. The program has been accepted, and Queensland is about to begin another community pharmacy pilot for a wider range of common health conditions. New South Wales is conducting a similar trial for pharmacies to provide UTI treatments and oral contraception without prescriptions, and South Australia has an inquiry into accessing UTI treatments based on the Queensland model. The scheme will increase access to low-risk medications and reduce costs for consumers, while going some way to reducing the burden on the health system. We commend the bill to the chamber.


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