Libs support pain services, not safe injecting

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The Victorian Opposition has pledged to both invest in pain services, and shut down Richmond’s injecting room

Anthony Tassone, president of the Pharmacy Guild’s Victorian branch, has welcomed the former announcement, but condemned the latter.

As Victorians head to the polls on Saturday, Shadow Minister for Health, Mary Wooldridge, said the Opposition would inject $40 million into pain services across the state.

“Victoria has a number of specialist pain clinics, but waiting lists are often long, sometimes even a couple of years,” the Opposition said in a statement.

“Regional areas are significantly affected, with high rates of opioid prescribing and excessive waiting lists for public pain clinics.

“Further, there are more Victorians experiencing opioid addiction than ever before but since 1 February 2018, codeine has not been available without a prescription and with the roll out of Safe Script underway Victorians have been moved off opioid painkillers but left without accessible and evidence-based treatment options to manage their pain.”

The Liberals Nationals plan is to support pain management via:

  • Expanding services at every public pain clinic to improve access and bring down waitlists and waiting times;
  • Developing a state-wide pain management plan;
  • Establishing a musculoskeletal/pain network to assist clinical innovation, policy development and improved care and access to services.
  • Undertaking targeted interventions to reduce opioid prescription in hospitals; and
  • Enhancing the management of patients with pain as a result of the implementation of Safe Script, including data collection and targeted training in the quality use of medicines.

Each pain clinic would receive a funding boost to deliver more services, with larger clinics providing linkages to help smaller services with training and specialist support.

“Too many Victorians are waiting too long for desperately needed treatment for their pain,” said Ms Wooldridge.

She cited data showing that at Monash Health, patients have waited up to 712 days for treatment, and up to 648 days at Barwon Health.

“The Liberal Nationals will enable 35,000 more Victorians with chronic pain to get the treatment and support they need.”

Anthony Tassone said that with an estimated one in five Australians living with chronic pain, there is a real need to help provide patients the necessary advice and support to help them manage this potentially debilitating condition. This additional investment is welcomed, he said.

“The currently underway Chronic Pain MedsCheck trial as part of the 6CPA through community pharmacy can potentially play a complimentary role to additional investment in pain management clinics,” said Mr Tassone.

“Since codeine has been upscheduled to prescription only in February, there has been a double digit increase year on year of PBS subsidised codeine prescriptions dispensed. 

“The evidence shows that codeine has a very limited (if any) role in chronic pain. With the ongoing roll out of SafeScript real time prescription monitoring in Victoria we need to ensure we have sufficient treatment and support services to not only address chronic pain but also prescription drug dependency concerns for affected patients.

“Community pharmacists as medicine experts can play a vital role in helping patients understand medications used in pain management, help patients form realistic expectations of the benefits that analgesics can provide as well as refer to other healthcare professionals where appropriate.”

Shutting it down

However Mr Tassone also criticised State Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s pledge to close the Richmond supervised injecting facility – within a week, if the Liberal Nationals are elected.

“I wouldn’t want an ice injecting room next to my sons’ primary school and therefore I won’t tolerate it next to anyone else’s childrens’ primary school – that’s why we’ll shut it down,” Mr Guy reportedly said.

Premier Daniel Andrews responded, according to The Age, by stating that the injecting room trial is saving lives.

Mr Tassone wrote to the editor of The Age, calling Mr Guy’s position “alarming”.

“There is compelling evidence both in Australia and overseas that medically supervised safe injecting rooms save lives and reduce harm,” he wrote.

“Despite early concerns from some local business and community groups, there is now strong and broad support for the ongoing trial and operation of the Richmond safe injecting room due to its clear benefits.   

“The sooner any prospective premier or government stops stigmatising people with a drug dependency concern, understands that we can’t arrest our way out of this issue and realises that the ‘war on drugs’ was lost long ago the sooner we can work together for actual effective solutions in getting people back on the right track.”

Mr Tassone is among a number of health stakeholders to criticise the election promise.


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