Prescription Monitoring 'A Matter Of Urgency', NSW Opposition

The Opposition is calling for a digital system linking GPs and pharmacies, in the hope it will reduce deaths related to prescription drugs.

What you need to know
  • 600 Australians die from prescription overdoses every year
  • The NSW Deputy Coroner recommends a real-time prescription monitoring system
  • The Opposition will introduce one if elected next year

Lead by her dependence on prescription drugs, Alissa Campbell visited 40 doctors in the few months before she died of an overdose.

The new-mum was last seen slumped on the couch inside her Woolloomooloo home, unable to be woken.

She was found with a cocktail of drugs in her system, many of which can be bought in chemists with the right script.

“These were prescribed by a large number of different doctors, such that no one practitioner had a complete picture of Alissa’s health needs or current medications,” NSW Deputy Coroner Harriet Grahame.

"Urgent consideration (needs to) be given to raising the priority for the introduction of Real Time Prescription Monitoring in NSW, being a system that would allow doctors and pharmacists to keep track of patients current prescriptions, to prescribe and dispense medications more safely and identify patients struggling with addiction or other misuse of prescription drugs.”

It’s a system the Opposition intends to introduce next year if they win government in March.

“All too often people are going from GP to GP and pharmacy to pharmacy to access these prescription based drugs and there’s no system of oversight to guard against misuse,"  Opposition Leader Luke Foley said.

“We’ll bring in a system of monitoring where if you present with a script for an opioid… the GP and the pharmacist can look up and see where else you’ve been.”

The Opposition is committing $30 million over four years to implement a program like Victoria’s SafeScript, which will be rolled out in coming weeks.

Between 2007 and 2013, deaths from prescription drugs rose 68 percent.

But health professionals say software linking pharmacies and GP surgeries could prevent unnecessary deaths.

“One death is too many and we as pharmacists do not want to be responsible for another death –- if we have this vision we have the power to stop another death,” David Heffernan from the Pharmacy Guild said.

“The system would be designed to stop the frequency of use and subsequent abuse and addiction and you know save lives. We believe NSW, the most populous state, should be doing the same thing (as Victoria) as a matter of urgency.”

The system is also a way of identifying addicts early and getting them the necessary help before it’s too late, says President of NSW’s Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Peter Carroll.

He says it's "inconceivable" that implementing the program is not a top priority of the NSW government.

But NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says a state-based system is “pointless."

He fears addicts will simply cross the border to feed their addiction and is instead working with his Federal colleagues to implement a national program.

The opposition said this is a “poor excuse” wasting time as Victoria and Tasmania lead the way on this issue.

According to Tasmanian data, between 30 and 50 drug users are turned away from chemists every day.

Foley said a similar system was introduced in NSW back in 2012 to ensure those buying Pseudoephedrine were genuine and not looking to use it to make methamphetamines.

Within months, the frequency of rejected sales was virtually eliminated.