Pharmacy Guild to roll out real-time monitoring system for OTC codeine

The Pharmacy Guild has moved quickly to prepare for a large-scale pilot of its new real-time monitoring system to help combat the misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines containing codeine.

As reported last October, the Guild's IT arm GuildLink has developed a prototype real-time monitoring and clinical decision support tool that will allow pharmacists to review recent purchases by patients from other pharmacies.

Now called MedsASSIST, the system will require patients to consent to their details being recorded, which according to Guild research would be acceptable to the vast majority of customers if it meant they could continue to buy products containing codeine over the counter.

Writing in today's issue of the Guild newsletter Forefront, national president George Tambassis said user testing of the system prototype was carried out by 30 pharmacies in Newcastle in December.

Following some modifications, the Guild is now ready to begin large-scale trials of MedsASSIST in 150 pharmacies in Newcastle and north Queensland, which will begin next month.

Mr Tambassis said the data collected would help make the case to the government that it is not necessary to reschedule medicines such as pain relievers and cold and flu remedies that contain codeine as prescription-only Schedule 4.

The Guild has fought a fierce campaign against an interim decision to reschedule the medications, with the decision put on hold by the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) until the March meeting of the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS). A final decision is due after June.

The Guild also commissioned independent economic modelling that showed rescheduling combination analgesics and cold and flu remedies would cost the government $316 million a year, predominantly in increased visits to GPs.

The Guild has built the system in partnership with the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI). A Guild spokesman told Pulse+IT last year that the development costs for the system were about $300,000, with an estimated ongoing maintenance cost of about $300,000 a year.

“The Guild is not asking the government to pay these costs,” the spokesman said. “They would be borne by industry.”

Through the system, pharmacists will be able to review any other recent purchases to assist in making a clinical assessment on how best to manage the patient. The system will also have the capacity for pharmacists to record clinical information and provide guidance regarding suitable referral pathways to support patients to better manage their pain.

Unless the patient consents to their details being recorded, the pharmacist will not supply the codeine product. Instead, they can offer the patient a different over-the-counter product or refer them to a GP if that is more appropriate.

The Guild is at pains to emphasise that MedsASSIST is not like the Project Stop system developed for monitoring pseudoephedrine sales. The Guild says that system is primarily a law enforcement tool, while MedASSIST is a clinical decision support system that can help pharmacists identify patients who are at risk of codeine dependence.

Mr Tambassis said the national roll-out of the system is scheduled to begin in March with a launch of MedsASSIST planned for the APP Conference being held on the Gold Coast from March 17 to 20.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: Pharmacy Guild, GuildLink

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