NSW Guild renews call for real time monitoring


Concerns that drug companies are using codeine upschedule to market stronger painkillers reveal an urgent need for real-time recording, says Guild

Pharmaceutical companies have come under fire for allegedly using a crackdown on codeine sales as an opportunity to market stronger painkillers to doctors, according to a Fairfax investigation.

One of the main concerns about the codeine upschedule was that doctors could end up prescribing even stronger medication to pain sufferers.

This may be coming to fruition, as some doctors are saying this is now happening through advertising sent to GPs.

President of the NSW Branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, David Heffernan, has responded to the concerns, saying that the objective must be to end prescription drug deaths and a concerted national approach is vital.

“Reports in Fairfax press highlight some of the transitional issues arising from the shifting of low dose codeine medicines to prescription only – alleging a new push towards more prescribing of stronger pain relief medicines with potential for addiction, abuse and ultimately deaths,” says Mr Heffernan.

“This simply emphasises the urgent need for the introduction of real time recording.

“I believe the political will and the funding for such a system exists today and it is time for governments to get on with the job to establish a workable uniform national system.

“The only way to give pharmacists and GPs vision to identify problem users and those at risk of addiction is a real time recording system that connect all surgeries and all pharmacies.

“This is a public health initiative that requires a team effort from doctor groups and pharmacy organisations – backed by a collaborative approach at the COAG level,” he said.

“The soon-to-be launched Victorian real time recording model is the most progressive and advanced and will be a world leader. It should go national as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr Heffernan points to a 2017 AIHW report that revealed deaths from prescription drugs outpaced deaths from illicit drugs, with the majority of deaths attributed almost entirely to opioids such as oxycodone, and benzodiazepines.

“Opioids are a very effective and legitimate drug for pain, however their threat to public safety can only be curbed with a real time monitoring system – we need such a system in place as soon as possible,” Mr Heffernan said.

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