A real-time prescription monitoring scheme that has proved successful in Tasmania to prevent patients from doctor shopping to obtain prescription drugs, and subsequently overdosing, will be established in the ACT under a Bill introduced to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday (10 May).
A real-time prescription drug monitoring scheme was one of two recommendations made after a coronial inquiry into the death of 21-year-old Canberra man Paul Fennessy, who died in 2010.
The Drugs and Poisons Information System Online Remote Access (DORA) scheme will enable health professionals to check what monitored medicines have previously been prescribed or supplied to a patient.
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said introducing real-time prescription monitoring was a key part of the Government’s strategy to minimise harm from controlled medicines such as morphine and oxycodone that are used to control severe pain, and dexamphetamine which is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
“DORA can help health professionals make more informed clinical decisions and help stop doctor shopping across the ACT. DORA can also help doctors to identify risks early and refer patients who are experiencing signs of addiction to the most appropriate treatment,” she said.
The Bill included privacy protections and disciplinary pathways to protect against unlawful or inappropriate access to the database, or unlawful use of information from the database.
The Minister also foreshadowed a regulatory change, once the legislation is passed, that will require pharmacists to report data daily, instead of the current seven-day period.
The scheme won’t be mandatory for doctors at first but she would be talking to medical professionals about how to implement mandatory reporting once a nationally compatible scheme was in place.
Ms Fitzharris said that after discussing the issue with other Health Ministers at COAG it was clear there should be nationally consistent real-time prescription monitoring scheme in Australia.
“Until larger states are on board, such as NSW, cross border issues will remain,” she said.
Tasmanian media reported last year that an average of 40 patient red-flag “interventions” were being made in Tasmania every day by doctors, pharmacists and health regulators to stop the potential fatal misuse of prescription drugs.
The Sunday Tasmanian quoted Tasmania’s chief pharmacist Peter Boyles as saying that the reporting system had stopped the prescribing and dispensing of opioid analgesic drugs, such as morphine, to between 30 and 50 prescription drug users daily.
This had helped reduce the fatal overdose rate from an average of 25 to about 17 deaths a year.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre estimates that 800 Australians are dying per year from overdoses of prescription pain killers.
DORA will be an extension of the existing Drugs and Poisons Information System (DAPIS) that the Health Protection Service has been using since 2014.
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