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Physiotherapists administering medications under instruction
  1. Lynley Anderson
  1. Correspondence to Lynley Anderson, Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand; lynley.anderson{at}otago.ac.nz

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In New Zealand, some sports teams only take a physiotherapist as the sole healthcare provider while on tour. When that happens, the physiotherapist is often expected to carry and administer a range of medications, including: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antiemetics, antidiarrhoeal, antihistamines, sleeping tablets, respiratory medications, pain relief, antibiotics and Tamiflu. This practice has been going on for some years with no reported adverse events. However, many doctors and physiotherapists engaged in this activity are unaware that a formal structure exists for such arrangements, and others consider that patient safety is threatened when physiotherapists take on this role, arguing that medications should only be provided by licensed prescribers.

NZ physiotherapists, as in many other legislatures, are not qualified or licensed to prescribe medicines, but can legally work under ‘standing orders’ written by a licensed prescriber. This is comparable to standing orders in Australia1 and patient group directions in the UK2 (although a small number of UK physiotherapists who have received appropriate training can undertake supplementary prescribing).3 NZ standing orders are set out in the Medicines (Standing Orders) Regulations 2002,4 and further …

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