A Launceston woman is outraged that a government pilot program making it easier for women to buy antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) excludes women aged over 65.
Health Minister Guy Barnett launched the program over the weekend, saying it would make it easier for women to access treatments when doctors' appointments were becoming more difficult to arrange.
From March 1, Tasmanian women aged 18 to 65 will be able to buy antibiotic urinary tract infection treatments from registered local pharmacists without a prescription.
But 68 year-old Ravenswood woman Gillian Coombe says the program excludes her, despite the fact that she has suffered numerous urinary tract infections since turning 65.
"I am living proof that UTIs do not magically disappear after this age," she said.
"This is appalling discrimination against all women 65 and over."
She said she has experienced "countless" UTIs in the past several years.
UTIs occur when the bladder, kidneys or other parts of the urinary system are infected with bacteria.
They can affect all people of all ages but are most prevalent in women.
When not treated early, they can lead to hospitalisation, kidney failure and even death in rare cases.
Ms Coombe has written to both Women's Minister Jo Palmer and Labor Bass MHA Michelle O'Byrne requesting that the government address the discrimination against older women and men.
A government spokesperson said URIs in people below 18 and over 65 could be more complicated than URIs affecting people within the age brackets.
"In these cases, it is clinically recommended that management from a GP is sought," the spokesperson said.
"The Tasmanian pharmacy prescribing program is following national guidelines which have been adopted in all States and Territories who are participating in the program."
Ms Coombe said imposing the age limit in the pilot would stop many women like herself from rapidly accessing treatments when they are most needed.
"If you've got to go to the doctor, and sometimes you can't get in to see the doctor for a week," Ms Coombe said.
"I just can't see any reasonable reason for them putting the age limit at 65," she said.
She also pointed out that the government appears to have excluded men from accessing antibiotics under the pilot program.
"Men may not get them as often, but they get them," she said.
"From the little I know about men, and UTIs - they seem to get a lot more serious a lot more quickly," she said, noting that she knew of at least two men who had been hospitalised recently with serious UTIs.
She said many women experience UTIs after the age of 65.
"Different GPs have told me that UTIs are almost rampant in nursing homes for women."
She said boosting communications between pharmacists and GPs could help to cut down on any misuse of the system under the pilot program.
Ms Coombe believes that in implementing its pilot program, the Tasmanian government copied a Queensland program making UTI antibiotics freely available in Queensland pharmacies.
She said the initial Queensland pilot program also featured an age limit.
"It's now become permanent as of October 2022, and there's no age limit," she said.