MedsASSIST to be discontinued

The Pharmacy Guild’s real-time recording system will be disabled on Thursday night across Australia

MedsASSIST will be discontinued nationally from 10pm on Thursday 30 March 2017.

The decision was made following the Department of Health’s December decision to upschedule medicines containing codeine to S4 from 1 February 2018, which will “regrettably” render MedsASSIST obsolete, says the Guild.

Pharmacies across Australia should have been required by law to use the system in order to address dependency issues and identify risk factors regarding codeine supply, says the Guild in a statement.

“Unfortunately this could not be achieved despite advocacy by the Guild at all levels of government. It could never be fully effective while it remained voluntary,” it says.

And while the number of pharmacies voluntarily using MedsASSIST peaked at around 70%, this number has been declining since the decision was announced.

The Guild reminds pharmacists that after Thursday night, they will be required to follow the protocols and responsibilities surroundings S3 analgesics containing codeine in the same way they did before March 2016 when MedsASSIST was first rolled out.

Meanwhile Pharmacy Guild National President George Tambassis says the Guild remains concerned that upscheduling will disadvantage responsible users of codeine medicines and will not effectively address issues of addiction.

“As custodians of Australia’s medicines schedule, pharmacists will comply with the decision and ensure they are available to support and counsel patients, many of whom will be concerned that their safe access to these medicines without first having to see a doctor will no longer be possible,” says Mr Tambassis.

“At the same time, the Guild will continue to work with regulatory authorities at all levels of government to identify and seek to implement solutions that will maintain access to these medicines for acute, short-term pain, with appropriate safeguards and clinical protocols.”

The Guild will also continue in its public advocacy for a broader mandatory national real-time monitoring system for drugs of addiction, he adds.

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  1. Amin-Reza Javanmard

    I for one would like to thank the guild for having the balls to implement a system like this off their own bat and the pharmacies who used the platform as an example of best practice and prob patients above profit. It has helped me detect a case of pancreatic cancer and a help a number of patients with chronic pain and substance abuse issues.
    To the pharmacies who chose not to use the system, I hope your greed is punished by the pharmacy board… although I hike my breath.

    • Pharmerblue

      Well to be honest though the could have done more earlier and then this decision wouldn’t have been made. It was almost like the Guild didn’t really care about implementing such a system until there was the ominous threat of up-scheduling.

      • Michael Buxton

        Unfortunately whether intended or not, it’s immediate removal once up-scheduling was confirmed will only confirm this point of view.

        I am surprised that this wasn’t promoted more agressively as a method of pushing towards real time monitoring of controlled drugs. GIven pseudoephedrine monitoring was able to be legislated state by state, the same approach could have been taken for all controlled drugs due to the potential for misuse. I appreciate that there are a range of barriers to this but I did not hear much about this being used as the backbones of a similar system.

  2. allie

    if anyone really things making the product S4 will make less problems is very misguided. Surely making medsassist compulsory would be an efficient tool and not cost the health system a fortune

    • bernardlou1

      Agree. The TGA dismissed Pharmacists even though codeine hasn’t been associated with any death.

  3. PharmOwner

    Shame Guild, shame. Thanks for pulling the rug out from under our feet. MedsAsssist WAS a useful tool in detecting patients with codeine issues even though not every pharmacy used it.

    • Shayne Power

      Indeed. A case of “I didn’t get my way, so now I’m going to pick up my marbles and go home”.

    • bernardlou1

      Dear anonymous pharmacy owner
      Thx to the guild the pharmacy sector is still regulated otherwise you’d be working for the supermarkets.

      • PharmOwner

        Regulated in name only. In case you hadn’t noticed, supermarkets already own pharmacies. They’re called Chemist Warehouse.

  4. Nicholas Logan

    Legislated, real time recording goes up in a puff of smoke. It’s a real shame. MedsASSIST was the only available solution to the problem. Thwarted by illogical up-scheduling.

  5. Ahmed Zeidan

    Another epic fail by the disgraced Guild

    • Bente Hart

      Not a fail by the Guild. A fail by the pharmacies that chose not to use it.

  6. bernardlou1

    Mr Zeidan, are you a guild member?
    If not you should always remember you are only a pharmacist proprietor cause the guild made sure the ownership is still regulated.

  7. Ashim Marfatia

    Perhaps the deactivation of MedsASSIST is a few months premature, but the SHAME is that the TGA and government haven’t recognised the complex and challenging job that most pharmacists do in managing the supply of such an important medicine and have decided to up-schedule it.
    If you’re an owner pharmacist and don’t like what the Guild do, go ahead and join or become a part of their decision making team. Be a part of the solution.
    I’ve watched the Guild, mostly made up of owner pharmacists, work tirelessly towards keeping ALL of us, owners and employees in prosperous businesses for YEARS. From the very first agreement to the one we have now, it could have been FAR, FAR worse, had it not been for the “regular pharmacists” who made their time and resources available for the PROFESSION as a whole. They do the very best they can with the resources they have, and will surely not always succeed to the level they or we wish, just as we do in our own businesses or jobs (or am I the only one writing here that that is not perfect?).
    I’m a member of the Guild but not on the Guild, and it tires and disappoints me to read to many criticisms of these fine people.
    Really we should all act together in order to convince the government to change their decision, based on sound health and financial reasoning. It is usually the Guild that act as the main conduit for our coherent arguments. Join in with that.

  8. Anthony Tassone

    Whilst all posters are entitled to their opinion, to read some posts state their view that the Guild is ‘disgraceful’ and ‘shame on them’ perhaps does not take into account a number of considerations that were behind this decision which as per the media release distributed.

    The absence of legislation making real time recording of codeine compulsory has not only rendered the system less than effective because of partial coverage, it has also resulted in privacy concerns arising from complaints by some consumers. These could have and should have been addressed through legislation to mandate the use of a real time monitoring system for supply of codeine.

    The Guild have been long time supporters of real time monitoring for substances of concern, not only codeine but prescription only and Schedule 8 products.

    If it was not for the Guild who invested its own (and members) funds to develop the MedsAssist real time monitoring system, there would not have been any system in place to provide a clinical decision making support tool for pharmacists.

    The Guild has long called for the mandating of a system of real time monitoring for codeine but this has not been acted upon by the State and Territory governments.
    More information is likely to come forth in the very near future regarding MedsAssist – which may reduce the inclination of some posters to make such strong negative statements.
    Anthony Tassone
    President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

    • PharmOwner

      “More information is likely to come forth in the very near future regarding MedsAssist – which may reduce the inclination of some posters to make such strong negative statements.”

      I look forward to hearing such further information. I’m not convinced that blaming the costs of running the platform for killing MedsAssist bear weight. Is the Guild struggling financially like so many pharmacy owners?

        • PharmOwner

          Thanks Anthony. Are we to assume that Minister Hunt has promised some federal funding to keep MedsAssist operating until 1st February 2018? What happens after that? It’s a pity that what appears to be last minute back room deals are being done to save MedsAssist. It should never have been under threat in the first place.

          • Anthony Tassone


            Rather than speculate or make assumptions, I would suggest perusing the Pharmacy Guild’s media release regarding the shut down of Medsassist being held off;


            This release is an accurate reflection of the discussions that have taken place between Minister Hunt and the Pharmacy Guild, with noting the following passage;

            “In particular, Mr Hunt has committed to seeking urgent advice on the necessary steps to strengthen the regulatory underpinnings of the MedsASSIST system via discussions with the Department of Health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.”

            I can’t comment on the future of MedsAssist beyond February 1st 2018 when codeine becomes prescription only.

            Whilst you can remark that its a ‘pity’ of ‘back room deals’ being done to save MedsAssist, I feel that it is more than a pity that State and Territory governments have not acted to mandate a real time monitoring system for OTC codeine.

            Anthony Tassone
            President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

          • PharmOwner

            Fair comments Anthony. Here’s hoping the Guild can convince the govt of the value of a real time prescription monitoring program. Codeine is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough. A record of all dispensed medications would be better. We have eRx, mygov and My Health Record. The framework is there.

  9. Toby

    Don’t blame the Guild. Blame the TGA. After all, it’s the TGA that implicitly said that MedsAssist was not good enough, that pharmacists were not good enough, to supervise Codeine – even though the doctors will have no real-time monitoring system. Do you seriously think MedsAssist would have been continued once all Codeine went script-only? Of course not. And given that, why would the Guild, and pharmacists, take on the risk and expense before the inevitable day of execution, of running MedsAssist, once it was on life support and terminal? Think it through – MedsAssist could only have run for a matter of months longer anyway. So again, vent your anger at the TGA, not the Guild.

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