RACGP demands real-time prescription drug database

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The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is again calling for the immediate rollout of a real-time prescription drug database to reduce the number of people dying from prescription drug related overdoses.

The Pharmacy Guild says it supports the call.

The RACGP’s renewed calls for a database follows the release of concerning rates of prescription drug related fatalities by Victorian Coroner Audrey Jamieson on the weekend at the International Medicine in Addiction Conference.

Coroner Jamieson told the conference – co-conveyed by the RACGP – that of 384 deaths attributed to drugs and alcohol in Victoria in 2014, prescription drugs were found to have contributed to 82% of cases.

RACGP President Dr Frank R Jones said the number of overdoses involving prescription drugs contributed to more deaths in some states each year than car accidents.

“Across Australia far too many people are dying from prescription drug overdoses and the real tragedy is that a large number of these deaths could be avoided if GPs had access to a national real-time prescription drug database,” Dr Jones said.

“It is difficult for GPs to determine where prescription drug abuse is happening because GPs sometimes have limited access to a particular patient’s medication history. Patients may visit a regular GP and then attend other doctors as a transient patient to obtain more prescription drugs, so-called ‘doctor shopping’.

“The lack of adequate monitoring strategies is severely hindering a GP’s ability to protect their patient’s safety.”

Dr Jones said while several computerised systems were available, the death toll continued to rise because an effective national system was not in place.

“The RACGP is calling for a national Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) system to help reduce overdoses from prescription drugs.

“Patient safety comes first in general practice and all prescribers and dispensers of drugs should have access to a detailed database of prescribing information, enabling them to make informed decisions in the best interest of patients,” Dr Jones said.

The RACGP has been calling for a database since last December and says it is committed to addressing real time prescription drug monitoring and working with government and interested organisations to develop a suitable and effective monitoring system.

A Guild spokesperson said: “The Guild certainly supports this call. Coroners all over Australia have pointed out the need for action on abuse of prescription medications, and the benefits of real time recording.

“The technology exists, we just need the administrative momentum across six States and Territories.

“Interestingly, the original funding for the development of ERRCD (Electronic Real -time Recording of Controlled Drugs) was contained in the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement ($5 million) at the instigation of the Pharmacy Guild.”

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