Victoria’s SafeScript real-time prescription monitoring system will come online next month, with the Western Victoria Primary Health Network poised to be the first to use the platform designed to prevent doctor shopping.

SafeScript will be activated across the state early next year, according to the state’s Minister for Health Jill Hennessy, who this week joined clinicians at a Yarraville pharmacy to announce the initial October go-live.

“Too many Victorians have died from the misuse of prescription medications. SafeScript will save lives,” Hennessy said.

“We promised the most comprehensive and cutting-edge real-time prescription monitoring system in Australia and that’s exactly what we’re rolling out.”

Deaths caused by prescription medicine misuse have outnumbered the road toll in Victoria for the last six years, including 414 in 2017, but SafeScript aims to save lives by providing clinicians and pharmacists with up-to-date information on patients’ prescription histories. It will also monitor Schedule 8 medicines such as morphine and oxycodone.

Doctor shopping – when patients addicted to prescription drugs go from doctor to doctor in an effort to gain unsafe quantities of medication – will be dealt a blow by the new system.

“Prescription medicine dependency doesn’t discriminate. Thanks to SafeScript, doctors and pharmacists will have the critical information they need to keep their patients safe and prevent prescription medicine deaths,” Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said.

The Victorian Government has invested $29.5 million to implement SafeScript, including comprehensive training for healthcare providers.

A new public awareness campaign including TV advertisements has been launched this week highlighting the dangers posed by misuse of some medications.

A pharmaceuticals hotline is also providing free, expert and confidential advice to those concerned about their use of high-risk medicines.

Next year the state-wide roll-out will provide access to SafeScript to 6000 GPs.

In 2016, 1045 people between the ages of 15–64 died from opioid overdoses in Australia, according to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

The rate of deaths from opioid use nationally almost doubled between 2007 and 2016, and more than three-quarters of all drug deaths involved pharmaceutical opioids.

Other medications will also be monitored, including codeine and diazepam.  
GPs will receive an alert when a patient has previously been prescribed a drug being monitored. 

Victoria has opted to implement its own real-time prescription monitoring system, while a national system has been proposed based on Tasmania’s DORA – Drugs and Poisons Information System Online Remote Access – which has been in operation since 2012.

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