Doctors must maintain sole responsibility for prescribing medication to patients, AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua said today.
"No medication is without risk," Dr Capolingua said. "The right medication and the right dose at the right time for the patient is essential. Patients do not want to take unnecessary or inappropriate medication, and they want to be sure that what they are taking is right for them at the time.
"This requires that patients should have their health and medication regime regularly reviewed by a doctor, who is trained to treat the whole patient. Quality use of Medicines is underpinned by this principle."
"If patients are given access to medication in the absence of a current prescription from a medical practitioner, their safety and clinical outcome may be put at risk."
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has proposed a list of 20 drugs that it says pharmacists should be able to continue to dispense without a current prescription.
"These are serious medications, important to the patient's clinical condition," Dr Capolingua said.
"The AMA is extremely concerned for patients if they are given access to these medications without seeing a doctor. If a prescription-only medicine is issued without a current prescription, this would amount to pharmacists prescribing and this is something they are not trained to do."
Pharmacists are already allowed to supply an existing customer in an emergency situation on verbal authority from the doctor, who then must follow up with a written script within one week.
"The AMA supports the dispensing of medications in urgent situations within the government's rules - for instance when a patient has run out of a drug without realising, and needs a few days' worth of medicine to see them through until their doctor's appointment," Dr Capolingua said.
"That's convenient for patients. There's no need to extend that arrangement through any widespread mechanism that puts patients at risk and gives pharmacists unilateral prescribing rights as well as their existing dispensing function.
"In fact Pharmacy Guild President Kos Sclavos himself told the National Press Club this week that pharmacists believe that the right to prescribe and the right to dispense medication must remain separate.
"The AMA wholeheartedly agrees - any prescribing by the people who make a living from selling medications would present a clear conflict of interest."
The AMA will continue to talk with the Pharmacy Guild about the respective roles of doctors and pharmacists.
"Both pharmacists and doctors have important roles in keeping patients safe," Dr Capolingua said.
"We must continue to work together to achieve the best possible health care for each patient."