Guild welcomes ice action, calls to extend Project STOP

ice (crystal methamphetamine) spills from a bottle

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomes the establishment by the Prime Minister of a taskforce to develop a National Ice Action Strategy to tackle the growing scourge of ice (crystal methamphetamine).

As the Prime Minister has said, it has been clear for too long that ice is damaging individuals, destroying families, and hurting communities, the Guild says.

As Australia’s most accessible health care professionals, pharmacists play a vital role in harm minimisation and the prevention of illicit diversion of the methamphetamine precursor pseudoephedrine, contained in some common cough and cold medications, it says.

The Project STOP system records all requests for products containing pseudoephedrine within a pharmacy, and alerts law endorsement authorities to suspicious transactions. It has been extremely effective in deterring the practice of “pseudo runners,” says the Guild.

Real time online recording of pseudoephedrine sales is compulsory for community pharmacies in some Australian jurisdictions – such as Qld, WA and SA – but not all. Approximately 80% of pharmacies nationally are using Project STOP.

It is absolutely vital that real time recording is mandated nationally so that we have a uniform national approach to this important law enforcement and community protection measure, the Guild says.

“Uniform legislation that mandates the use of a single online reporting tool will improve accurate data collection on pseudoephedrine-based product sales, which will reduce the diversion of this precursor chemical from community pharmacies,” says National President of the Guild, George Tambassis.

“It would disrupt the manufacture and supply of methamphetamine in Australia, as well as allowing the continued legitimate access by consumers to this effective medicine.”

The Guild says it is ready to work with Taskforce leader Ken Lay, and with Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan in their response to the ice issue.

The overall stated purpose of the Taskforce will be to examine all existing efforts to address ice and identify ways to take a systematic, comprehensive and coordinated approach to education, health and law enforcement.

The Guild says it strongly urges the Taskforce to recommend the national mandating of real time recording with appropriate funding to maximise its effectiveness as a law enforcement weapon against the ice epidemic.

The Guild would also support a nationally coordinated education and awareness campaign program involving community pharmacy staff and consumers.

Given the impact pseudoephedrine-based product diversion can have on communities and individuals, such a campaign needs to address prevention, intervention, treatment, research and education, particularly targeting individuals who are at high risk of illicit drug use and dependence.

The Guild believes that any campaigns and resource materials should be promoted through community pharmacy so that consumers in rural and metropolitan areas throughout Australia have easy access to this important health information.

It should also be noted that pseudoephedrine is an effective oral decongestant for symptomatic relief of colds and flu, and the majority of people who purchase PSE products are doing so legitimately, the Guild adds.

While Project STOP assists in identifying people who may be diverting PSE products, PSE products are legal and effective and no stigma should be attached to use of PSE products for legitimate purposes.

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