Pharmacists welcome RTM in Queensland

health professional at computer with magnifying glass

Queensland has passed legislation which brings real time prescription monitoring one step closer in the state

The Queensland Parliament has passed the Medicines and Poisons Act and the Therapeutic Goods Act, following a discussion in Parliament of issues around opioids and other drugs of concern.

Brittany Lauga, ALP member for Keppel, spoke in support of the bill, pointing out that the real time monitoring scheme will “essentially align with other jurisdictions” and will cover all S8s and some high-risk S4s such as Valium, codeine and Stilnox.

“I was speaking to two pharmacists at the chemist recently and they told me that they are very pleased with the proposed changes to implement real-time prescription monitoring for schedule 8 medicines and also the higher risk schedule 4 medicines,” Ms Lauga told State Parliament.

“Pharmacist Cindy told me that she regularly sees people with multiple prescriptions for schedules 4 and 8 drugs who have doctor-shopped to get the prescription and she agrees that these new measures will put a stop to not only the abuse of these medications but also the use of these medications in the cooking of illicit drugs.”

Dr Christian Rowan, Liberal National Party member for Moggill, said the LNP had concerns about some aspects of the bill, but took the time to state his support for real time monitoring, calling it “crucially important” in addressing the rates of overdose where opioids, anticonvulsant medicines and antipsychotics have played a role.

“That being said, whilst the benefits of real-time monitoring can literally save lives, the implementation of such a system must be appropriate with proper consultation whilst also recognising that supply reduction strategies are not the only single solution,” he said.

“As a specialist physician registered with AHPRA in addiction medicine, I can attest to the fact that it is only an investment in a balanced approach of supply reduction, demand reduction and harm minimisation that reduces the prevalence and harms of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.”

He said it is “vitally important that there is a further investment in alcohol, tobacco and other drug services across Queensland to deal with a range of substance dependency disorders”.

“Whilst supply reduction and identification of at-risk patients via a real-time monitoring system is important, access and availability of treatment services is also just as vitally important. Limited access to treatment in many communities across Queensland means that there are many Queenslanders who are not getting access to evidence based care and treatment for substance dependency disorders.”

Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said once introduced, the monitored medicines database would provide life-saving benefits by assisting doctors when prescribing dependence-forming medicines, minimising over-prescription and reducing doctor shopping.

“I made a commitment to deliver a real-time prescription monitoring system in Queensland in 2020, and passing these Bills is the first major milestone in that process,” Mr Miles said.

The Pharmacy Guild welcomed the passage of the Bill, saying it has long supported and called for the introduction of real time recording.

The Queensland decision is a “common sense move,” it says, which will benefit vulnerable patients.

Queensland Branch President and National Senior Vice President Trent Twomey said real-time monitoring enabled pharmacists to identify and support patients at risk of dependence and also to counter attempts at doctor shopping.

“The Guild welcomes the Queensland Government’s commitment and action to progress the introduction of real-time prescription monitoring in this State,” he said.

“We will continue to work closely with the Government on the introduction of this system to ensure maximum outcomes for patients.

“We also commend Minister Miles for his efforts in driving the introduction of this important system,” Mr Twomey said.

The real-time prescription monitoring system is scheduled to be available for use by Queensland prescribers and pharmacists in the second half of 2020.

Establishing real-time prescription monitoring will meet a recommendation of the Queensland Health Ombudsman’s 2016 report, ‘Undoing the knots constraining medicine regulation in Queensland’ and a commitment made by the Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services to the COAG Health Council in April 2018 to establish the system in 2020.

According to the State Government, the new Medicines and Poisons Framework is set to:

  • allow more effective monitoring of medicines, poisons and therapeutic goods;
  • streamline prescribing of medicinal cannabis by enabling non-specialist medical practitioners to prescribe without the need for approval from Queensland Health, eliminating duplication with the Commonwealth approval process;
  • ensure Queensland Health will better be able to respond to new or emerging substances that are unregulated;
  • improve Queensland Health’s ability to monitor and respond to health risks, and enable the chief executive to make emergency orders, emerging risk declarations, recall orders and public warnings;
  • provide improved certainty and safety for manufacturers and consumers;
  • simplify licencing requirements;
  • improve national uniformity by aligning key terminology with the Commonwealth Poisons Standards.

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