GPs in the dark without real-time monitoring

GPs are prescribing opioids “in the dark,” says a prominent GP and medical advisor, MJA Insight reports, without a real-time prescription drug monitoring protocol.

Dr Walid Jammal, Senior Medical Advisor, Advocacy, at Avant Mutual Group, told MJA Insight that GPs have been calling for a national real-time prescription drug monitoring program for some time, with “coroner after coroner” calling for such a program.

“No one argues with the need for responsible prescribing and that that responsibility ultimately lies with the prescribing doctor,” he says.

“But real-time monitoring really sheds light on the issue because GPs are currently prescribing in the dark.”

MJA has also published a report dealing with the issue, in which it highlights the recent increase in prescription of opioids and benzodiazepines, and concerns related to this increase.

Currently only Tasmania has such a program. Queensland currently has a prescription monitoring program which is not in real-time.

There has been a 15-fold increase in the number of PBS opioid prescriptions dispensed, rising from around 500,000 in 1992 to more than 7 million in 2012, the lead author of this piece, Dr Rowan Ogeil, an NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Fellow at Monash University and Turning Point in Melbourne, told MJA Insight.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild said that the Guild “fully supports” the implementation of a national real time recording system for controlled drugs.

“It is a pity that the process has been so slow in producing a national result, but we must all understand the complexities of the challenge to achieve a solution across our many and varied jurisdictions,” the spokesperson told the AJP.

“It is vital that this comes to fruition to address the problem so often highlighted in the coroners’ courts.”

According to MJA Insight, in 2013, the Coroners Court of Victoria reported that more than 80% of drug-related deaths involved prescription drugs, mostly opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines.

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