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20 Sep 2016

Health bodies have called on the Government to make real-time prescription monitoring (RTPM) compulsory, as new figures show nearly three Australians die every day from prescription drugs.

Six years ago, the federal Department of Health established a non-compulsory RTPM system, with the onus on each State and Territory to implement the system individually.

Yet Tasmania, which already had a system in place, remains the only jurisdiction with real-time monitoring.

In April, the Victorian Government committed $30 million to adopt the system by 2018.

Not-for-profit group ScriptWise says it is now time for the Commonwealth to take action and establish a mandatory, national RPTM system to curb doctor shopping and help save some of the 800 lives lost every year.

“Prescription medicine misuse is reaching epidemic proportions in Australia and we need to act now,” ScriptWise CEO Bee Ismail said.

“Without a unified response to this growing issue, vulnerable Australians will continue to fall through the cracks of a system that just isn’t good enough.”

Prescriptions for opioid painkillers (Schedule 8 medications) have risen dramatically, with oxycodone now the seventh most prescribed drug in general practice.

“The reality is that harms linked to prescription drug misuse are rising in tandem with increased prescription availability,” Ms Ismail said.

Since 2012, when New York became the first jurisdiction in the United States to implement a prescription medication monitoring system, the state has seen a 75 per cent drop in patients seeing multiple prescribers for the same medications.

ScriptWise argues that a national RTPM system in Australia will also promote quality use of medicines, and help doctors identify patients who are at risk of misuse.

The AMA supports the introduction of an RTPM system in the interests of patient safety.

In its Position Statement - Medicines 2014, the AMA called for controls on access to certain medicines that are prone to addiction and misuse.

“The AMA supports the introduction and funding by governments of electronic systems to collect and report real-time dispensing data relating to these medicines as an effective means of addressing problems of forgery, dependency, misuse, abuse and prescription shopping,” the AMA said.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners also support real-time monitoring.

Maria Hawthorne


Published: 20 Sep 2016