Community pharmacists need to to move beyond vaccinations

It’s time to get serious about allowing community pharmacists to administer other injectable medicines.
Chris Campbell (right) speaking with PSA Board Director Caroline Diamantis

With community pharmacists an integral part of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, it’s time to get serious about allowing pharmacists to administer other injectable medicines.   

Over the next month, pharmacists in almost 4,000 community pharmacies across the country will begin offering COVID-19 vaccines. This is a far cry from 2014, when pharmacists were unable to administer any medicine – vaccine or otherwise. But while providing influenza and other vaccinations is now commonplace, pharmacists are still not practicing to their full potential.

This was the message delivered by PSA’s General Manager, Policy and Program Delivery Chris Campbell during a session at PSA21 Virtual today.

‘Pharmacists in every single jurisdiction have done the training to administer a subcutaneous or intramuscular injection,’ he said.

‘We have the competence and now we’re going to lead the country out of the pandemic.’

Determining whether administering other injectable medicines is within pharmacists’ scope of practice was a ‘simple equation,’ Mr Campbell said.

‘Do we have the competence, the accountability and the authority to do that service?’ 

For the first two, the answer is yes, he said.

Pharmacists have the knowledge to administer other injectables, as they have already completed training on administering subcutaneous and intramuscular injections, and administering medicines has been in the National Competency Standards since 2016. 

‘What is now slowing us down is the legislation, Mr Campbell said, ‘the allowance from our state and territories to let pharmacists do this.’

‘What makes them likely to change legislation? It’s evidence that pharmacists are doing it in another state or territory.’

As legislation in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT allows pharmacists to administer other injectable medicines, Mr Campbell called on pharmacists in these jurisdictions to ‘lead the way’ for others.

To learn more about administering medicines other than vaccines, Mr Campbell advised PSA21 attendees to review PSA’s Guidelines for pharmacists administering medicines by injection.

This includes information on professional obligations, practice and training requirements, as well as a checklist to determine whether you are ready to offer the service.

‘Take away the handcuffs’

Speaking to Australian Pharmacist ahead of PSA21 Virtual, former PSA National President and CEO Dr Shane Jackson said administering other injectable medicines was about ‘filling a gap’ rather than an expansion of pharmacists’ scope of practice.

‘It’s just about using the workforce and responding to patient need,’ he said.

‘A person can pick up their injection from the local community pharmacist, for example for B12, but in some cases they can’t also receive it.

‘We would appeal to all governments to take away the handcuffs on pharmacists being able to do something which is well within their scope.’ 

Australia, ‘can’t afford’ to have an under-utilised health workforce, he said.

Mr Campbell echoed this in his presentation.

‘There will be a wave coming where all all health professionals will need to practice to their fulfilment scope,’ he said. ‘The country needs us to do that.’ 

Making it easier for patients to access injectable medicines at their local community pharmacy is also important given PSA’s Pharmacists in 2023: roles and remuneration report, which detailed how Australia’s health system will shift from an illness to a wellbeing focus, or from one-size-fits-all to precision healthcare. 

‘It just so happens that a lot of the newer medicines are injectable medicines, and will need to be administered,’ Mr Campbell said.

He pointed to Canada, where pharmacists can administer medicines other than vaccines in most jurisdictions, as an example of what’s possible.

‘They started by providing influenza vaccinations, then included other vaccines, and now they can do any drug or vaccine,’ he said.

‘This is the model we use to demonstrate what can happen. Hopefully Australia will do it a little bit faster.’