With the Guild’s system to be shut down from the night of 31 January, what is the outlook for real-time prescription monitoring across the country?

MedsASSIST – the real-time recording system developed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to help reduce misuse of over-the-counter combination analgesic medicines containing codeine – will be discontinued nationally from the night of 31 January 2018, the Guild has announced.

“The reason for the shutdown is that all of the medicines recorded in MedsASSIST will be up-scheduled to prescription only from 1 February, and the system will become redundant at that time,” says the organisation.

“MedsASSIST was designed specifically to record over-the-counter medicines containing codeine. MedsASSIST was not designed to record prescription medicines.”

The clinical decision support tool recorded over 10 million transactions since it was introduced in March 2016, and at its peak the number of pharmacies voluntarily using the system reached over 70%.

“When the codeine medicines move to prescription only, community pharmacists can provide advice on managing pain, recommend an alternative pain relief treatment available over the counter, or recommend a consultation with a GP,” says the Guild.

“Patients are advised to talk to their pharmacist about the options available.”

Some readers may recall that MedsASSIST was initially supposed to be shutdown in March 2017, following the Department of Health’s announcement that it would be upscheduling medicines containing codeine.

However the system was saved at the last minute through an intervention from Health Minister Greg Hunt, who committed to working in partnership with the Guild to keep MedsASSIST open until the upschedule date.

As February approaches, the Guild also looks to the government to follow through with its promise of a mandatory national real-time monitoring system – which Minister Hunt said the government would be moving “immediately” towards in July last year.

However since that announcement, no further news has been heard on the progress of a national system.

In October, the Victorian Government then announced a statewide roll-out of its own real-time prescription monitoring system called SafeScript in 2018.

Currently being built by Fred IT Group, SafeScript is expected to be up and running throughout Victoria by the end of this year.

Tasmania already has a real-time monitoring system in place, however it is only in place for Schedule 8 drugs and alprazolam.

Known as DORA, the program has been progressively rolled out across a number of general practices and pharmacies in Tasmania since 2012.

The Department of Health has been contacted for comment but did not respond at the time of publishing.