Tomorrow’s Victorian state budget will include just under $30 million for a real-time prescription monitoring system aimed at combating the abuse of prescription drugs.
The Andrews government has pledged to build a central tracking system that will link medical centres, pharmacies and hospitals and give prescribing doctors the ability to conduct an on-the-spot check of a patient’s script history.
The system is intended to ensure patients aren’t ‘doctor shopping’ to get their hands on painkillers and other medications. Healthcare professionals currently have no way of preventing the same patient from visiting multiple doctors to access excessive volumes of addictive drugs.
The new system will initially record prescriptions of schedule eight medicines, such as morphine and oxycodone, and the government is considering whether to add other high risk drugs like diazepam in the future.
The government claims the approach has the potential to save the lives of as many as 90 Victorians in five years, as deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the state grow to eclipse those caused by illicit drugs and road accidents.
It also expects the system will reduce hospital admissions for prescription drug overdoses by 500 a year and channel an additional 700 sufferers into counselling.
“We have listened to the families who have experienced first-hand the tragedies of prescription medicine overdoses, and we’re getting on with delivering this life-saving initiative," Health Minister Jill Hennessey said in a statement.
The funding will pay for the system build, training for clinical users, as well as the additional counselling places and addiction treatment services.
It follows a similar commitment from the former Victorian government ahead of the November 2014 state election, which failed to eventuate after the Coalition lost the vote to the Andrews Labor Party.
The only state to have successfully implemented s a medication tracking system so far in Australia is Tasmania, which is working towards statewide availability.
The Australian Medical Association has been actively lobbying for this sort of central real-time database for several years.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is going it alone to pilot a codeine-specific tool to track sales of the over-the-counter painkiller, in an effort to stave off a reclassification of the drug.