ScriptCheckSA, a real-time prescription monitoring system, was introduced earlier this month in South Australia. The system provides doctors and pharmacists with information about a patient’s history and use of controlled medicines, aiding them in decision-making when it comes to prescribing or dispensing such medicines.

WHY IT MATTERS

ScriptCheckSA can help mitigate "doctor shopping", or visiting different doctors to get the same prescription for a controlled medicine.

“Prescription drug dependence and misuse are a major public health concern. Nation-wide, the supply of prescription medicines is increasing, as is the rate of overdose and accidental death," said Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade in a statement.

Minister Wade clarified that the monitoring scheme will not limit people’s access to their medications but instead identify those who might be abusing high-risk medications. When alerted by the system, clinicians may ask their patients for more details about their prescription use; discuss potential risks; and suggest alternative options or more specialised care.

About 9 million Australians aged 14 and above were found to have illegally used drugs in their lifetime, according to a National Drug Strategy Household Survey published last year. Among them, 900,000 people used a pharmaceutical drug for non-medical purposes in 2019 alone, though the figure was down from a million recorded in 2016 after some reclassification of medications.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

The rollout of the new prescription monitoring system in SA is part of a nationwide plan to install real-time prescription monitoring systems across Australian states. ScriptCheckSA’s launch comes three years after Victoria introduced a similar programme called SafeScript. The Victorian government was reported to have invested $29.5 million to implement the system, which also included comprehensive training for healthcare providers.

ON THE RECORD

“ScriptCheckSA gives doctors and pharmacists reassurance that they are making safer clinical decisions before a prescription for a monitored drug is written or dispensed," Minister Wade said.

"All states and territories in Australia have agreed to implement national real-time prescription monitoring as part of the solution to help save lives and reduce harm in the community," he added.

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