‘Surprise and disappointment’


NSW pharmacy leaders have slammed their state’s chief pharmacist over reports no strategy has yet been implemented for real-time prescription monitoring

In a statement provided to AJP, NSW PSA President Peter Carroll and NSW Pharmacy Guild President David Heffernan have called on the state’s Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Chief Pharmacist Judith Mackson, “as a matter of priority, to immediately implement a strategy for the introduction of a real time monitoring system for prescription opioids in NSW”.

The statement comes after a Fairfax report into an inquest into opiate deaths being held this month at the NSW Coroners Court in Glebe.

According to the report, Ms Mackson told Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame that, despite government commitments to rolling out a real-time prescription monitoring service, the system was still far from being realised.

Ms Mackson reportedly said NSW would wait for the Federal government before it implemented its own system, citing logistical difficulties in the state setting up a system by itself.

She also explained that the system required the building of a national data exchange, as well as a significant upgrade to the software that would be used to connect doctors, pharmacists and NSW Health.

“A timetable for implementation has not been developed, and the costs to NSW to implement real-time prescription monitoring have not been determined,” Ms Mackson said.

During Ms Mackson’s evidence, Deputy State Coroner Ms Grahame said that she and others thought a real-time monitoring system “would be introduced by now.”

“Do you find it frustrating? I do,” she said.

The NSW PSA and PGA presidents expressed “surprise and disappointment” in the admission that no strategy has yet been implemented for NSW, adding that they share the frustration expressed by Ms Grahame.

“Evidence clearly shows that the number of deaths caused by the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is increasing,” said Professor Carroll and Mr Heffernan.

“Further, the Tasmanian, Victorian, South Australian and ACT Governments have either implemented, or have set strategies to introduce a real-time monitoring system in their states.”

Victoria, for example, is in the process of rolling out its own system called SafeScript.

Roll-out for the system, which is being developed by Fred IT Group, is on track for implementation in October 2018, and will reportedly be focused in a specific geographical location before being extended to the rest of the state in early 2019.

There is already a real-time monitoring system in place in Tasmania called DORA, while ACT Health has said it plans to roll out a real time monitoring system for drugs of concern by March 2019.

“In the light of the increasing death rate and actions taken by other states, we find it inconceivable that the NSW Chief Pharmacist could admit that NSW has no timetable for the introduction of a real time monitoring system for prescription opioids,” said the NSW PSA and PGA presidents.

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