‘Wake-up call’ for real time monitoring

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Pharmacy and medical bodies have written to the TGA, calling for national script monitoring to be implemented urgently

In its consultation paper on options for a regulatory response regarding prescription strong (Schedule 8) opioid use and misuse in Australia, the TGA highlights that apart from possible TGA regulatory action, consideration should be given to the wider control mechanisms available in the Australian health care system.

“The states and territories have an important regulatory function in the prescribing and supply of controlled drugs, and other medicines that have an abuse potential,” it says, pointing to the role of these governments play in implementing national real-time monitoring.

While national real-time monitoring is not canvassed as a discrete option in the TGA’s consultation paper, organisations have stated their support in their submissions.

In fact, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia begins its submission with a call to action in implementing such a system.

It notes a recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which showed a 24% spike in prescriptions for opioids between 2010-11 and 2014-15, due in part to a 60% increase in prescriptions for oxycodone.

And according to a recent report by the Penington Institute, Australians are more likely to overdose on opioids including codeine and oxycodone than on amphetamines.

“We believe the findings of these and other reports are a wake-up call that governments and health professionals need to work together to implement a nationally consistent real-time monitoring system as a matter of urgency,” said the Pharmacy Guild in its submission to the TGA consultation.

“…We believe that the TGA’s suggestions in the discussion paper are limited because it can only make recommendations within its powers contained in the Therapeutic Goods Act.

“We do not believe that the suggestions in the TGA’s paper will effectively address the problems of the opioid crisis as they do not include a nationally consistent real-time monitoring system which is the responsibility of the respective state and territory governments,” says the Pharmacy Guild.

The PSA agrees that such a system is “essential” for patient safety.

“PSA has long supported and advocated for a nationally uniform real-time recording and reporting system and re-iterates that such a system is a priority from a patient safety and public health perspective,” the organisation says in its submission.

While the Federal government has committed to a national rollout, “PSA is concerned that the response of states and territories has been variable.

“For a monitoring system to be informative for prescribers and pharmacists, and able to effectively deliver maximal benefits to patients and families, it must be nationally uniform in terms of functionality and capability, coordinated between or across jurisdictions, and have the same medicines captured and reported.”

AMA also put its hat into the ring.

“AMA has been calling on all State and Territory governments to implement real time prescription monitoring of all Schedule 8 medicines since 2013,” it reminds the TGA in its submission.

“This alone should effectively reduce misuse, illness and death related to strong opioids.”

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