Q&A: Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy

Professor Brendan Murphy

Since taking up the Chief Medical Officer post in 2016, Professor Brendan Murphy has made a number of strategic interventions in the pharmacy sphere, from directly admonishing the GPs with the highest rates of antibiotic prescribing to weighing in on pharmacies offering ultrasound screening for strokes.

Australian Pharmacist spoke to the Federal Government’s chief advisor on medical matters to gauge his thoughts on the future of pharmacy’s scope of practice and care.

Q How large a role do you think pharmacists can ultimately play in the broader healthcare system?

A The Government recognises the pivotal role of the community pharmacy sector – and pharmacists – in delivering medicines and vaccines to Australian patients. The Government also recognises the key role that community pharmacy plays as part of the primary health care team, and the assistance that community pharmacy can provide in achieving the whole-of-health system goals of providing the right care in the right place at the right time.

The Government entered into the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA), which operates until 30 June 2020, to support the National Medicines Policy (NMP) and the sustainability of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The Compact includes a statement of intent to build on the collaborative primary health care arrangements in place within the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) that involve community pharmacies in the provision of support to patients, seeking to further improve their health outcomes.

In addition, PSA – and other pharmacy organisations – will continue to work cooperatively with the Government on the development of new and innovative ideas to expand the role of community pharmacy in supporting primary health care for patients. This will include appropriate evaluation of such measures, as well as working in partnership with the Australian Digital Health Agency to maximise the uptake and clinical use of the My Health Record by community pharmacies.

Q What are some of the looming health challenges where you see pharmacists playing a critical role in managing?

A The Government recognises the significant pressures on the health system, including a growing burden of chronic disease, an ageing population, and growing demand for high-cost, high-tech services and breakthrough medicines. Community pharmacy is an integral part of the Australian healthcare system through its role in the delivery of the PBS and related services.

Through the $50 million Pharmacy Trial Program (PTP), which was established under the 6CPA, trials of new and expanded community pharmacy programs are being undertaken, which seek to improve clinical outcomes for consumers and/ or extend the role of pharmacists in the delivery of primary health care services through community pharmacy.

Trials are underway looking at utilisation of pharmacist skills in medication management within Aboriginal Health Services. Trials are also underway in medication management and identification of risks in chronic disease, including diabetes and asthma.

A Chronic Pain MedsCheck Trial, recently announced by Minister Hunt (on 25 January), will assist patients who are taking medication to deal with ongoing chronic pain by supporting pharmacists to evaluate a patient’s medication use and develop a written action plan including education, self-management and referral to a general practitioner or other health professional where additional support is required.