New legislation for real-time prescription monitoring in Victoria

Real-time prescription monitoring system will roll out across Victoria in 2018, with new laws passing the state’s parliament yesterday (October 19).

The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Real-time Prescription Monitoring) Bill 2017 establishes the real-time prescription-monitoring system, to be known as SafeScript.

With this legislation milestone, Victoria will become the first state in Australia to roll out a mandatory prescription-monitoring system on this scale.

Last year, 372 people died in Victoria from an overdose of prescription medicines. For five successive years, more people in Victoria have lost their lives from the misuse of prescription medicines than from road accidents.

“It’s a tragedy that so many lives are lost to prescription-medicine misuse,” Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said. “SafeScript will save lives, by helping to stop prescription shopping from next year.”

SafeScript will give doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists access to an up-to-the-minute database to review prescription histories of patients in their care and enable safer clinical decisions.

“SafeScript will be the most comprehensive real-time prescription monitoring system in Australia. It will be effective and user-friendly for health professionals, while protecting the public from avoidable harm.”

The system will monitor all Schedule 8 medicines such as morphine and oxycodone – which carry the highest risk of misuse – and other high-risk medicines, including all benzodiazepines such as diazepam.

Once SafeScript is fully implemented, it will be mandatory for prescribers and pharmacists to check the system before writing or dispensing a prescription for a high-risk medicine, with some exceptions in certain circumstances.

The legislation also streamlines the existing Schedule-8 permit requirements to reduce duplication and regulatory burden for clinicians.

More support will also be offered to minimise any additional impact the system may have on clinicians and to ensure that SafeScript is embedded in existing clinical work.

The government invested $29.5 million to implement real-time prescription monitoring in the state, with the system expected to begin rolling out from late 2018 in a phased approach across Victoria.