Pharmacy Guild of Australia NSW Branch President David Heffernan says the national objective must be to end prescription-drug deaths, with a concerted national approach vital.
“It’s time for all governments in Australia to take action to address the rise in prescription-drug abuse and deaths – and the only way to go is a national, uniform, real-time recording system,” he said.
Reports in the Fairfax press this week highlight some of the transitional issues arising from the shifting of low-dose codeine medicines to prescription only – alleging a new push towards more prescribing of stronger pain-relief medicines with potential for addiction, abuse and, ultimately, deaths.
“This simply emphasises the urgent need for the introduction of real-time recording,” Mr Heffernan said. “I believe the political will and the funding for such a system exists today and it’s time for governments to get on with the job to establish a workable uniform national system.
“The only way to give pharmacists and GPs vision to identify problem users and those at risk of addiction is a real-time recording system that connect all surgeries and all pharmacies.
“This is a public-health initiative that requires a team effort from doctor groups and pharmacy organisations – backed by a collaborative approach at the COAG level.
“The soon-to-be launched Victorian real-time recording model is the most progressive and advanced and will be a world leader. It should go national as soon as possible.”
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report last year on the looming crisis revealed that drug-induced deaths were more likely to be a result of pharmaceuticals than illegal drugs – these deaths were attributed almost entirely to opioids such as oxycodone and benzodiazepines.
“Opioids are a very effective and legitimate drug for pain,” Mr Heffernan said. “However, their threat to public safety can only be curbed with a real-time monitoring system – we need such a system in place as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Pharmacy Board of Australia says Victoria’s real-time prescription-monitoring system, SafeScript, is on track for implementation to begin in October.
Online registration for access to SafeScript will open later this year, closer to implementation. Rollout will initially be focused in a specific location before it begins in the rest of Victoria in early 2019.
The state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is working with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to make registration for access to SafeScript automated and easy for pharmacists. To benefit from this automation, Victorian pharmacists need to ensure their registration details with AHPRA, especially their principal place of practice and email address, are up to date.
More information can be found on the SafeScript page of the DHHS website.