Doctors have slammed the Queensland government's decision to allow pharmacists to dispense the contraceptive pill and antibiotics, warning it could create superbugs.
Pharmacists will be allowed to provide the contraceptive pill on a one-off basis and antibiotics for urinary tract infections under a statewide trial being rolled out by the health department.
Details on the Queensland Health measures are yet to be determined, but pharmacists will be able to access a patient's medical history on the My Health Record database.
Health Minister Steven Miles said Queensland Health would work with industry stakeholders to firm up the details of the trial.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Harry Nespolon warned allowing pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics could drastically increase the risk of antibiotic resistance and create superbugs.
"Antimicrobial resistance is a real community risk, which has seen GPs become the stewards of antibiotic prescribing," he said.
"Governments should be trying to decrease the number of prescribers of antibiotics, not flippantly increase them."
Dr Dilip Dhupelia, president of the Australian Medical Association's Queensland division, labelled the decision as "irresponsible and reckless".
"Pharmacists do not have the medical training required to determine the various factors involved in ensuring patient safety when it comes to medication," he said.
"This is a blatant push by the pharmacy sector and the state government has condoned the move.
"Patients are set to be the biggest losers in this transaction."
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia hit back at the critics, labelling their comments "inflammatory and disrespectful".
Society president Dr Christopher Freeman called for pharmacists to have a greater role in the health system - including prescribing medications.
"Just as dentists, midwives, nurse practitioners, optometrists and podiatrists are able to in Australia," Dr Freeman said.
"Pharmacists have the greatest level of clinical training regarding medicines compared to any other health professional."
Mr Miles said consultation with health professionals had been carried out throughout parliamentary deliberations.
"I believe that a trial can be put in place with appropriate measures to accommodate their concerns," he said.
He says allowing women to access low-risk medications was sensible.
"In all of these issues, there is a bit of turf tension between the pharmacists and the doctors, but the responsibility of the government is to act in the best interests of the community," he added.
Australian Associated Press