The crackdown on common painkillers is about to go even further with the State Government moving to stop doctors and pharmacists from overprescribing codeine.
Drugs such as Panadeine and Nurofen Plus have been added to the list of high-risk drugs included on Victoria’s new prescription monitoring system when it is rolled out later this year.
Under Australia’s first real-time prescription monitoring system, Victorian doctors and pharmacists will be alerted to patients seeking multiple doses of potentially dangerous drugs to avoid addictions and overdoses.
The action comes after the Federal Government tightened access to codeinein February, banning over the counter sales of many common painkillers which are now only available on prescription following a GP visit.
Under the phasing in of its SafeScript program from July 2 the Andrews Government was initially going to include medicines such as oxycodone, morphine, dexamphetamine and benzodiazepines on the watch list.
However, Health Minister Jill Hennessy will today announce that codeine is being fast-tracked for inclusion after it was a factor in 498 overdose deaths over the past eight years — more than any other opioid painkillers.
“Too many Victorians have died from the misuse of prescription medicines” Ms Hennessy said.
“This is an avoidable tragedy and that’s why we’re getting SafeScript done to fix it. The experts tell us it’s essential we monitor codeine and we’ve listened.
“The misuse of codeine can have devastating consequences so we’re giving clinicians the resources they need to monitor patient use and save lives.”
Earlier this week Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt wrote to 4800 doctors with the highest rates of codeine prescribing to warn they may be over-relying on the addictive painkillers.
From Monday, data will begin being collected on the prescription history of Victorian patients, which will later be available in real-time to doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists to ensure they do not over prescribe addictive or dangerous medications.
An electronic prescription exchange services will be first rolled out in the Western Victoria from October allowing doctors to access the information, before being introduced statewide next year.
Within 18 months it will be a mandatory requirement for practitioners to check a patient’s drug history before writing a prescription for the listed medicines.
The measures have been undertaken to stem the rates of prescription drug overdoses, which saw 372 Victorians die in 2016 and has claims more lives each year than the road toll.
Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said the government was provided $29.5 million to implement SafeScript to protect Victorians from medicine misuse.
“Prescription medicine dependency can happen to anyone. SafeScript will help reduce this growing problem which is affecting far too many everyday Victorians. We know it will save lives,” he said.