(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
After a stormy debate and a vote of six in favor, one opposed and one abstention, the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee approved a regulation permitting veteran pharmacists to supply a number of prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.
They include drugs with a total of 21 active ingredients, including those used to treat acne (such as Benzamycin), constipation (Laxadin and Easylax), treatment of skin or eye infections (Syntomycin), treatment of skin infections (Hydroagisten), treatment of obesity (Xenical), migraine (Imitrex and Sumatriptan) and more.
Creating a shortcut for patients to avoid having to go to a physician for certain common prescriptions will save money to the health system, since doctors receive payments for patient visits.
Prescriptions will be made out by the pharmacist only after he or she reads the the medical information relevant to the customer and protecting his privacy. The pharmacist would be entitled to refuse to give the drug to the patient and refer him or her instead to a physician. In addition, he must inform the patient if a doctor’s prescription will allow him to get the drug at a cheaper price. The regulations will take effect one month after their publication.
During the hearing, MK Abdullah Abu Marouf (United Arab List), who is a physician, and Israeli Medical Association vice chairman Dr. Alberto Olchubsky expressed strong opposition to the regulations.
“Citizens and patients will suffer greatly. Forcing pharmacists to diagnose conditions is not part of their job and is against the law. Sometimes a rash that looks simple in fact reflects a systemic disease. We are abandoning patients in the hands of those not trained for this,” Olchubsky said.
“There is a law that one can prescribe medication only after a condition is diagnosed by a doctor. This change is unfair to the patient,” argued Abu Marouf. “A doctors’ responsibility must be eliminated in cases in which a pharmacist prescribes a medication.” he added.
But Health Ministry chief pharmacist Dr. Eyal Schwartzberg said he “carefully examined the lists of substances and compared them to other countries where pharmacists can prescribe drugs. The list has been reduced so we are confident beyond any doubt that the preparations that can be administered safely by a professional, with at least five years’ experience and a master’s degree in pharmacy.
Dudu Papo, the chairman of the Israel Pharmacists Association, added: “Doctors are trying to scare the committee. Dr.
Ron Tomer, head of the association’s professional committee said: “Patients are not stupid.
If he doesn’t feel better after receiving this medicine, it is clear that he will return to the doctor.”
Committee chairman MK Eli Alalouf concluded: “Pharmacists are educated people with good judgment. Let them reduce the red tape. The change does not prevent anyone from seeing a doctor.”
MK Merav Ben-Ari stressed that most of the drugs that can be prescribed by the pharmacist are for external use only, and some risky drugs such as codeine were eliminated already in 2014 from the original list.
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