Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced a $20 million trial program to help people suffering chronic pain, to be run through community pharmacies

The Guild and PSA have welcomed the move, which will see pharmacists assist patients who are taking medication to deal with chronic pain of three or more months.

In the Pain MedsCheck trial, pharmacists will evaluate a patient’s medicines, analgesic use and pain management program in a face-to-face consultation, to ensure it supports their clinical need.

They will then develop a written action plan which includes education, self management and referral to a doctor or other experts when additional support is warranted.

The Pharmacy Guild will manage the trial in partnership with the PSA.

“All community pharmacies will be able to participate in this service,” Mr Hunt said in announcing the trial.

“Community pharmacies participating in the trial will build relationships with GPs and other health professionals who support patients with chronic pain.”

Mr Hunt pointed out that one in five Australians live with chronic pain, rising to one in three for those aged 65 and over.

“Evidence shows that patients who actively engage in self-management techniques report lower levels of pain-related disability, as well as improvements in mood, better general health and a reduced use of medicines.

“We believe deeply in the role of community pharmacies and they play a key role in our world-class health system.

“This new trial will complement existing activities being undertaken ahead of changes to the availability of codeine that occurs on 1 February 2018.

“This is in addition to the Turnbull Government’s investment of over $1 million to ensure health practitioners and consumers are informed about changes to accessing codeine-containing medicines.”

Guild national president George Tambassis says the move is “great for patients, and a significant boost to the capacity of community pharmacies to make a contribution to the management of chronic pain”.

“It is particularly appropriate that this trial program is getting underway at a time when the management of pain is undergoing a significant transformation with low dose analgesics containing codeine becoming prescription only from 1 February,” he says.

“There is often a lack of access to appropriate advice and support on chronic pain in the community, and it is difficult for patients to access effective treatment that is timely and affordable.

“Community pharmacists see patients on a regular basis without the need for an appointment. As such, pharmacists are ideally placed to provide a patient-based solution to support patients who are suffering from chronic pain.”

The PSA also welcomed the trial.

“PSA applauds the Federal Health Minister for funding and supporting this new trial, which is strongly supported by Australia’s pharmacy profession.

“Pharmacists in the community are already available to provide advice on pain management and the safe and effective use of medicines. Pharmacists have also noted they are frequently concerned about patients whose pain is not being adequately controlled and who may be using medications inappropriately.”

Dr Jackson says PSA welcomes this opportunity for pharmacists to be funded to spend extra time with patients to review and discuss some of these concerns.

“Noting the issues that organisations such as Painaustralia have highlighted regarding the issue of chronic pain in Australia, this service gives community pharmacists the opportunity to improve pain management of patients with chronic pain,” Dr Jackson says.

“Community pharmacists advising patients on the safe and optimal use of medicines in managing their pain, or referring patients for a more detailed investigation by their GP we expect will result in better care for Australians.

“PSA looks forward to developing Standards and Guidelines for the Pain MedsCheck service for the profession, along with delivering education and resources to support the service.”