MedsASSIST use hasn’t dropped

Most pharmacies are still using MedsASSIST, an AJP poll has found

As the deadline for the upscheduling of codeine-containing OTCs grows closer, AJP readers had warned that pharmacies might drop the decision-making tool.

Readers suggested that following the TGA’s decision to upschedule the medicines, as few as 40% of pharmacies were using MedsASSIST.

But our latest poll further supports data which consistently show that use of the tool has only slightly declined since it was announced that codeine would become prescription-only.

Seventy-four per cent of respondents to the latest poll said they were continuing to use MedsASSIST, and planned to do so right up until 1 February 2018.

Only 2% of respondents – six readers – said that while they were still using it, they’d stop before the deadline arrive.

Eleven per cent said they had stopped following the TGA’s announcement, while another 1% said they’d stopped, but were using their own system for tracking people who repeatedly asked for codeine-containing preparations.

Three per cent said they’d never used MedsASSIST and use their own system, while 8% had never used MedsASSIST or any other tracking program.

This is roughly in line with a February AJP poll which showed that 10% of readers planned to stop using MedsASSIST before 1 February 2018.

Pharmacy Guild – Victorian Branch president Anthony Tassone tells AJP that the most recent poll results are similar to the Guild’s own figures.

“Approximately 4000, and that’s about 72% of all PBS approved pharmacies, are currently voluntarily using MedsASSIST, with over 7.5 million transactions having been recorded since its introduction,” Mr Tassone says.

He urges pharmacists to keep using the tool in conjunction with other measures to help educate consumers about the upcoming schedule change, and direct them to resources which can help with pain management and/or misuse.

“It’s time to engage your patients and consumers to inform them of the upcoming schedule changes, because not everyone may be aware of that, or how it may impact them,” he says.

“It’s also important to discuss other OTC options and prompt some patients or consumers to start or renew a conversation with their GP and other health care team members about their pain management.

“The Guild continues to call for the mandatory real-time monitoring of substances of concern, not only including OTC codeine, but prescription based medicines that may have drug misuse and abuse concerns.”

The Guild is currently working towards the establishment of a “prescription only except” system, where pharmacists could still prescribe codeine-containing preparations under certain circumstances. It outlined this concept in Forefront this week.

“The Guild maintains that there are more cost-effective and reliable methods of identifying and supporting consumers at risk of codeine dependence without restricting access for the majority of Australians who use these responsibly and safely,” Mr Tassone says.

“The Pharmacy Guild’s ‘prescription only except when’ model is aimed at being able to provide timely access for acute pain sufferers who’ve gained benefit from OTC products.

“This, underpinned by a mandatory real time monitoring system, would help identify patients who may have poorly controlled pain conditions and need further assistance from their health care teams.”



The Guild has released information sheets and other resources to help pharmacists and consumers navigate the change.

ScriptWise has also launched a new toolkit.

Connect4Health and the Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Care Network have launched a program whereby pharmacists can refer at-risk patients (Eastern Melbourne only).

The TGA’s codeine information hub can be found here.

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