Victoria stumps up $30 million for RTPM system to target doctor shopping
The Victorian government will provide almost $30 million in this week's state budget to roll out a real-time prescription monitoring (RTPM) system based on the national Electronic Reporting and Recording of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) program.
The move follows more than a decade of calls from Victorian coroners, including 21 coronial findings since 2012, calling for the urgent implementation of RTPM. This includes one this month by coroner Audrey Jamieson as part of her finding on the death of a Hampton Park man in September 2012 from bronchopneumonia on a background of methadone and benzodiazepine use.
According to Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy, 330 Victorians lost their lives due to prescription drug overdoses last year, up by five per cent on the previous year, a figure that is higher than the 217 overdose deaths from illicit drugs and the 252 people killed in road accidents.
Ms Hennessy said RTPM had the potential to prevent the deaths of up to 90 Victorians over the next five years. The system will be rolled out to general practices and pharmacies by 2018, she said.
The ERRCD system, which was developed and is live in Tasmania, only monitors Schedule 8 drugs of addiction but Ms Hennessy said the government will consult with medical and pharmacy groups to determine the best way to include other high-risk medicines such as diazepam and other benzodiazepines that are currently Schedule 4.
The budget allocation will include money to roll out the monitoring software, provide additional counselling and addiction treatment services, and to provide training and support for doctors and pharmacists to identify and help prescription drug misusers early.
The federal government bought a licence to use the software on behalf of the states and territories in 2012, and the federal Department of Health has made it available on a secure host server since 2014.
While it does require the states and territories to rewrite legislation, nationally consistent specifications for integrating the system into general practice and pharmacy desktop software and reporting the dispensing of controlled drugs to state and territory health departments were written back in 2014.
Most industry groups are also in favour of the system.
The Victorian government said that once implemented, the system will allow clinicians at 1900 GP clinics, 1300 pharmacies and 200 hospitals to do an on-the-spot check before prescribing or dispensing medicines that are at high risk of misuse.
This is expected to reduce the number of people taken to emergency departments with overdoses by more than 500 per year, and see a further 700 people a year referred to counselling.
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