Prescription monitoring to combat drug abuse

Doctors and pharmacists will now be able to better identify patients who are abusing prescription drugs and are at risk of overdose, with the launch of a new real-time prescription monitoring system across South Australia.

The new ScriptCheckSA system provides information to doctors (prescribers) and pharmacists (dispensers) about a patient’s history and use of controlled medicines when they are considering prescribing or dispensing these medicines.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said ScriptCheckSA delivers on the Marshall Liberal Government’s $7.5 million election commitment to implement a real-time prescription monitoring system for drugs of dependence in South Australia.

“Prescription drug dependence and misuse are a major public health concern. Nation-wide, the supply of prescription medicines is increasing, as is the rate of overdose and accidental death,” Minister Wade said.

“ScriptCheckSA will expose inappropriate use of high-risk medications and reduce ‘doctor shopping’ – visiting several different doctors to get the same prescription for a controlled medicine.

“We want to ensure that patients who genuinely need access to prescription medicines can still access them, but also identify a person’s potentially harmful use of monitored drugs during a patient consultation.

“ScriptCheckSA gives doctors and pharmacists reassurance that they are making safer clinical decisions before a prescription for a monitored drug is written or dispensed.

“This is not about limiting people’s access to their medication, but identifying those who are abusing high-risk prescription medication, and minimising the risk of addiction, overdose and death.

“All states and territories in Australia have agreed to implement national real-time prescription monitoring as part of the solution to help save lives and reduce harm in the community.

“South Australia is now the second state to give prescribers and pharmacists the power to tackle this issue head on.”

The Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Drugs of Dependence Unit Manager, Kerin Montgomerie, said many people in the community suffer every day from acute and severe pain, anxiety, sleep disorders and other conditions where treatment with high-risk medication is necessary.

“Schedule 8 drugs, or drugs of dependence, are prescription medicines that have a recognised therapeutic need but also a higher risk of misuse, abuse and dependence, which is why they are already highly regulated,” Ms Montgomerie said.

“The aim of real-time prescription monitoring is not to limit people’s access to their medication, but to provide health practitioners with accurate information to support their professional decision making.

“When a treating clinician is alerted through ScriptCheck SA, they may ask their patient for more details about their prescription use, discuss the potential risks, and suggest alternative treatment options or more specialised care.

“ScriptCheckSA will not tell a doctor or pharmacist what to do, or if a monitored drug should, or should not, be prescribed or supplied.

“Clinical decisions remain with the health practitioners who are best placed to determine the safest and most appropriate options for their patients’ needs.”

Controlled medicines include pain medications such as oxycodone, morphine and fentanyl and other high-risk medicines, including all benzodiazepines such as diazepam.

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