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Alarming Report Highlights Need for Mandatory Real-Time Recording System

A report into the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals has highlighted the need for immediate action to introduce mandatory real-time recording for many medicines, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has said.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report disturbingly showed a 24 per cent spike in prescriptions for opioids between 2010-11 and 2014-15. This rise was underpinned by a 60 per cent increase in prescriptions for oxycodone.

“These figures and the findings of the report are a wake-up call that governments and health professionals need to work together to implement real-time monitoring as a matter of urgency,” Mr Tambassis aid.

“Demonstrably there is a need for mandatory national real-time recording of medicines which are subject to abuse and dependence or cause harm.

“Such a real time recording system must operate across pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries to be effective.

“Greater vigilance and better exchanges of information among health professionals is also clearly needed.”

Mr Tambassis said that while the report’s findings were alarming, they pre-dated the introduction of MedsASSIST – a real-time recording system for medicines containing codeine which was voluntarily developed by the Guild and rolled out to pharmacies in March 2016.

“In the 20 months since MedsASSIST was introduced, it has been taken up voluntarily by more than 70 per cent of community pharmacies, with over 10 million purchases recorded,” he said.

“There has been an overall reduction in supply of about 15 per cent, with some pharmacies that use MedsASSIST experiencing reductions in supply of over-the-counter codeine products in the vicinity of 40 per cent.

“The pity is that this voluntary real-time recording system will become redundant from 1 February next year when all products containing codeine are made prescription-only. There is currently no national system in place to monitor prescriptions written by doctors.

“The Guild has called for this real-time recording to be made mandatory across all States and Territories. The AIHW report reinforces this call.”

Mr Tambassis said the Guild was also concerned over the lack of post-hospitalisation reconciliation of medicine use, since that is where many addictions arose.

“Simply giving patients a big bag of medicines when they leave hospital is just not appropriate and the transition from hospital to home or care is where much of medication misuse can arise,” he said.

“Building community pharmacies into this transition is essential. Pharmacists are the medicines experts and community pharmacies are easily accessible to help patients manage their medicines when they leave hospital rather than leaving them to self-manage.

“A structured transition plan with community pharmacists at its core can help prevent a problem from occurring rather than leaving it till the patient becomes a statistic in reports like this latest one from AIHW.”

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