Peak groups gang up to demand action on ERRCD

Prominent healthcare organisations have issued an open letter to the federal, state and territory health ministers demanding action on the slow roll-out of the Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) system, calling for an implementation plan to be agreed at the next COAG Health Council meeting.

Real-time prescription monitoring has so far only been rolled out in Tasmania, where the precursor to ERRCD was first developed, with the other states and territories at varying stages in their implementations. This is despite repeated and very public calls for the urgent implementation of the system by a number of coroners, particularly in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, following accidental deaths due to overdoses of prescription drugs.

Funding for a national roll-out was secured under the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement (5CPA) in 2010, a national licence was purchased on behalf of the jurisdictions by former health minister Tanya Plibersek in 2012, the system was made available for use to the jurisdictions by the federal Department of Health at some stage in 2013 and nationally consistent specifications for the system completed by the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA) in April 2014.

However, as Pulse+IT reported last year, there are a number of barriers to a faster roll-out, with some states still weighing up whether their existing systems are adequate.

It is understood that since that report, NSW has made progress, as has the ACT.

However, documents recently released under Freedom of Information legislation show that the federal government itself recognises that some states seem to be dragging their feet.

In July last year, then health minister Peter Dutton wrote to all state and territory health ministers seeking an update on progress. Slightly different wording in the letters seems to indicate there were those that were well advanced – the NT, NSW, Tasmania, WA, SA and the ACT – and then there were the laggards that needed to take urgent action, namely Queensland and Victoria.

While the peak bodies have now formally agreed to work together and acknowledge that the jurisdictions face a range of technical, legal, financial and administrative issues, they emphasise that in the absence of such a system, “avoidable deaths involving prescription medicines continue to occur at an alarming rate”.

Signatories include the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Pharmacy Guild, the MSIA, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Pharmaceutical Society, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists and the Consumers Health Forum.

They call on the ministers to work together to implement ERRCD as a matter of urgent priority, saying the system will provide clinicians with a crucial tool to help them work with patients in a more collaborative and informed way to address the serious problem of addiction to prescription drugs.

“Each of our organisations has been advocating for the ERRCD and we have agreed to work together to ensure that it is implemented expeditiously,” the letter states.

“Consumers, general practitioners, physicians, pharmacists and the medical software sector consider the ERRCD system to be a crucial clinical support and intervention tool to help practitioners manage the prescribing, supply and management of drugs of addiction, and to prevent harm from inappropriate use of prescription drugs.

“We call on all jurisdictions to agree on a clear implementation plan and timeline for a national ERRCD system at the next COAG Health Council meeting, and to remove any roadblocks to achieving this outcome.”

In the meantime, prescription exchange service MediSecure has launched its own real-time monitoring system called Dr Shop, which has the benefit of not only alerting doctors to potential misuse of Schedule 8 drugs like opiates but also Schedule 4 drugs such as benzodiazepines, which have been consistently implicated in multiple toxicity overdose deaths.

However, Dr Shop is only available to GPs at the point of prescribing and not to pharmacists at the point of dispensing, and many GPs use the rival eRx system instead.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: MediSecure, ERRCD

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