11 March 2022

Patient safety at heart of new prescription monitoring service

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Drugs & pills

The ACT Government launches a new prescription monitoring system to enforce harm minimisation. Photo: File.

The ACT Government has launched a real-time prescription monitoring system to reduce overuse and misuse of prescription medicines.

The newly-enforced system, Canberra Script, will allow medical practitioners to examine patients’ drug history prior to prescribing and dispensing their medication.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said she wanted to enforce harm minimisation wherever possible and reduce the burden of drugs on people’s health.

“Canberra Script will support medical professionals to make safe and effective prescription decisions,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

She said the new system would provide pharmacists access to information about their patients’ drugs and monitor potential drug-seeking behaviours.

“It’s important for those prescribing and dispensing medications to know what other medications the patient is on or has recently taken. Some medicines can be harmful when taken in high doses or in combination with other medicines,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“We know while prescription medicines can provide relief from pain and symptoms of illness, they can also cause harm in our community if they are used incorrectly or misused and abused.

“It’s important for prescribers and pharmacists to know what medicines are being taken by their patients as some medicines, particularly when taken in high doses or in combination with other medicines, can be harmful.”

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The new system follows the death of many Canberrans who have misused prescription drugs.

Ms Stephen-Smith said it would address the increasing harm caused by some prescription medications, particularly opioids over the past 10 years.

She said the number of drug-induced deaths involving opioids had tripled in Australia.

“Prescription medicines can provide relief from pain after an accident or surgery or alleviate the symptoms of diseases or other conditions,” she said. “But medicines also have side-effects, and some can cause dependence or other harm.

“The system will enable healthcare professionals to better identify and support patients who may be at risk of harm or dependency.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said the new program provided more effective data and information about patients’ drug use and would integrate with health care providers’ systems.

Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says the ACT government will be providing support, training and guidance to ensure the community benefits from Canberra Script. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Canberra Script is currently used by 120 doctors, nurses and pharmacists in the ACT.

In 2018, the ACT Government allowed for the first monitoring system to be created. In 2019, the ACT’s first pill monitoring system – the Drugs and Poisons Information System Online Remote Access – began operating.

Ms Stephen-Smith said although it was more difficult to use than the previous system, she hoped Canberra Script would replace and better target harm minimisation by monitoring consumers’ prescription and medical intake.

“It has been really important we engage with prescribers and dispensers to make sure the system is what they need and what they are going to want to use in their practices to support their patients to make it as easy as possible,” she said.

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She encouraged all prescribers to sign up and start using the new pill monitoring system.

“I believe it will genuinely enable safer, more effective and efficient patient care.”

Cooleman Court Pharmacy in Weston was involved in a trial prior to the new monitoring system being rolled out. Its pharmacist, Bradley Butt, said Canberra Script had been a handy clinical decision-making tool.

“It’s about putting the right information in our hands so that we can help patients to better understand their medications and take them more safely and appropriately,” Mr Butt said. “As pharmacists, that’s what we really enjoy doing.”

He said patients should talk to their doctor or pharmacist about the new system.

The system was developed in consultation with stakeholders, the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions within Canberra.

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There has been an ISO standard for Electronic Prescribing since the 1990s. I chaired the Standards Australia Working Group that produced it. I’d be happy to provide input.
It was comprehensive and would identify doctor-shopping. It’s been resisted since then.
Tim Bailey

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