Pain groups have questioned the upcoming implementation of the national real time prescription monitoring system, saying it puts the “cart before the horse”
But the Pharmacy Guild’s Anthony Tassone has defended the decision, saying it will be an essential tool to prevent overdose deaths.
Last week, the Department of Health announced that it had appointed the Fred IT Group, which has already developed the Victorian real time monitoring system, to develop the national version.
But the pain stakeholders, pointing out that Fred IT is owned by the Pharmacy Guild and Telstra Health, say it may be premature to implement the system before providing additional pain management and treatment options.
Painaustralia CEO Carol Bennett, in a joint release with the Faculty of Pain Medicine and Australian Pain Society, said that while prescription monitoring systems have a role to play in reducing the number of overdose related deaths, they can only be effective if they are underpinned by community awareness; health professional education and training; and effective, accessible pain management treatment alternatives.
These treatment options include access to psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists, she said.
“A national RTPM system will help identify problems in pain management, but not offer any workable solution to address the unmet needs of patients,” said Ms Bennett.
“There are millions of Australians, in fact one-in-five, managing pain on a daily basis. Pain medication is the primary treatment solution, even though it is generally ineffective in long term pain management.”
Faculty of Pain Medicine Dean, Dr Meredith Craigie said that community-wide pain education for patients and doctors plus ready access to holistic pain treatment needs to happen before identifying and monitoring those who are dependent on opioids.
“Patients deserve the full range of pain treatments being available close to their homes rather than being reliant on medication only, especially opioids which the evidence shows are not effective in the long term management of chronic pain,” she said.
“Monitoring alone risks harming more patients than helping.”
President of the Australian Pain Society, Fiona Hodson, said, “Evidence shows that pain is best managed using a multidisciplinary approach and currently there is limited access or funding for allied health services to support and manage people experiencing pain in the community”.
“This also includes better remuneration and care plans under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for GPs, medical specialists and allied health professionals to effectively manage chronic pain patients.”
Ms Bennett called for the National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management to be prioritised and fully funded, so that when a national medication monitoring system is implemented, health professionals and patients are able to access more effective ways to manage their pain.
“We urge Australian governments to put the horse back in front of the cart and invest in what should be done to address the epidemic of pain conditions in this country,” she said.
While the Guild acknowledged that it does, with Telstra, have an interest in Fred IT, it is concerned that the pain stakeholders do not fully recognise the importance of a national real time monitoring system.
“A fully comprehensive real-time prescription monitoring system will be an essential clinical decision making tool for both doctors and pharmacists regarding prescribing and dispensing of substances associated with avoidable overdose deaths,” said Anthony Tassone.
“Yes, it is one thing to identify a drug dependency issue and another to treat and support that health concern along with pain management, but the roll out of an RTPM system across all states and territories is long overdue following dozens of coronial recommendations for its introduction.
“The Guild along with other stakeholders have done, and will continue to advocate strongly to ensure there are sufficient treatment and support services in conjunction with and in parallel to RTPM.
“Any notion of a ‘cart being before the horse’ with the recent announcement of funding for the development of a national real-time monitoring system don’t seem to fully comprehend the many lives that could have been saved from overdose death if a system had been in place earlier.”