Two statements on the same day showed the shared determination of the Federal and Victorian governments to tackle prescription drug deaths through real time medicine monitoring system, while also exposing a communications shortfall between the health departments.
The Australian Government announced on Friday that it will invest $16 million in the Real-Time Prescription Monitoring system to alert pharmacists and doctors when patients have received multiple supplies of medicines, including strong painkillers such as morphine and oxycodone, dexamphetamine and alprazolam.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the system comes in response to calls by the Australian Medical Association, Pharmacy Guild of Australia and families that have lost loved ones to prescription medicine misuse.
“Real-time reporting will assist doctors and pharmacists to identify patients who are at risk of harm due to dependency, misuse or abuse of controlled medicines, and patients who are diverting these medicines,” he said.
“This can happen if a patient has developed a dependency on controlled medicines, or is selling these medicines to others, including for the purposes of manufacturing other illegal drugs.”
Last year, 600 people died nationally as a result of prescription drug mishaps.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Government on Friday announced a $29.5 million investment in the implementation of a real-time prescription monitoring system in Victoria in a bid to reduce deaths.
In this scheme, Schedule 8 medicines such as morphine (Kapanol) and oxycodone (Endone, OxyContin), benzodiazepines (Valium), ‘Z class’ medicines, the anti-psychotic quetiapine, alprazolam (Xanax and Kalma) and Ritalin will be monitored by a system described as an Australian first.
Use of the custom-built network will be mandatory in 1900 GP clinics, 1300 pharmacies and 200 hospitals in Victoria before high-risk medicines can be prescribed or supplied.
“Victoria is the only state developing a real-time prescription monitoring system for a wide range of high risk medicines – it will save lives,” the state’s Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said.
Last year, 372 Victorians died from prescription medicine overdoses – more than the state’s road toll. Addictive medications such as Valium are now linked to more fatalities than illegal narcotics.
According to The Age, the details of the federal plan had not been shared with the Victorian Government prior to the near simultaneous announcements.
The state president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Anthony Tassone, urged the rest of Australia to follow Victoria’s plans to prevent prescription shopping.
"Any investment from the Commonwealth is welcome, but the Victorian proposal is more comprehensive and has a broader reach. It will literally save lives," he told The Age.