Are you prepared?

The Pharmacy Guild and PSA are set to develop CPD-accredited training for pharmacists leading up to codeine upschedule – predicted to impact one million patients in 2018

Health Minister Greg Hunt has this week signed off on newly announced funding for the Pharmacy Guild and the PSA to develop and deliver education and training for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in the lead up to 1 February 2018 and beyond.

This training will include CPD-accredited online modules and videos covering protocols and procedures, with further funds allocated towards communication materials and resources for consumers and other healthcare professionals.

PSA and the Guild have announced they will be working together to develop a comprehensive training package “to enable a smooth transition to the upscheduling of codeine”,

“This is a very positive and welcome contribution by the government,” says PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson.

“The package will enable community pharmacists and other pharmacy staff across Australia to support patients in this significant transition in the coming months.”

Pharmacy Guild National President George Tambassis says the funding boost comes at a crucial time for pharmacy.

“It is vitally important that community pharmacies have the resources to communicate directly with patients, ensuring that they are following the most appropriate clinical pathways to meet their pain management needs and minimising the number of unnecessary GP, emergency department and after-hours home doctor visits,” says Mr Tambassis.

The organisations say they will work closely with the Department Health and the Nationally Coordinated Codeine Implementation Working Group on the development of clinical protocols, standards and guidelines, as well as associated education and support.

Pharmacists will have a vital role to play even after codeine goes prescription only, say experts.

“Even when codeine is a prescription drug, it’s still going to be a problem. One in four (24%) of those using opioids in the community meet the criteria for addiction,” says lead alcohol and drug researcher Dr Suzanne Nielsen.

“Unfortunately the pattern is that opioid overdose deaths continue to rise. There are two prescription deaths to every one heroin death.

“It’s important when preparing for rescheduling, don’t assume that GPs know what to do, or that patients know where to get help. They might not be particularly confident about what to do.”

Meanwhile, the Guild and PSA confirm they are “committed to ensuring that community pharmacies and the pharmacist profession have rigorous, clinically safe and patient-focused solutions in place to enable this change, which will have an impact on an estimated one million patients in 2018.”

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