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Media release

RACGP leads efforts to curb prescription drug-related deaths

8 December 2014

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is leading efforts to curb the alarming number of overdoses involving prescription drugs which contribute to more deaths in some states each year than car accidents.

The RACGP recently released its Electronic assistance with managing abuse of prescription drugs discussion paper calling for a national implementation of the Electronic Recording and Reporting of Controlled Drugs (ERRCD) system for prescription drug management.

RACGP President, Dr Frank R Jones said a large number of prescription drug-related deaths in Australia could be avoided if GPs had access to a national electronic recording and reporting system for controlled drugs.

“Prescription drug abuse is disturbingly common, and it is very difficult for GPs to precisely determine instances where this is taking place as there is limited access to patient medication history,” said Dr Jones.

“Patients may visit a regular GP and then attend other practitioners as a transient ‘drop-in’ patient, and GPs’ ability to protect patient safety is severely hindered by this system gap. Our present monitoring entities are inadequate; there is no real time information available for front line GPs. 

“Currently, prescribers and dispensers cannot obtain any other real-time information regarding patients’ prescribed medications, other than what they have prescribed or dispensed themselves.

“The RACGP is calling for the urgent implementation of the ERRCD, providing a real-time monitoring system for prescribers, dispensers and regulators.

“As it currently stands, the ERRCD allows healthcare professionals to view dispensing information about Schedule 8 drugs, but the RACGP urges an extension that encompasses all prescription drugs of dependence.”  

Victoria and NSW Coroners have also recommended the implementation of real time drug monitoring, noting a number of tragic outcomes could have been prevented if GPs were aware of patients’ prescribing history.

“Several computerised systems are available to curb the alarming trend of patient ‘doctor shopping’, however the death toll continues to rise as no adequate national system has yet been implemented,” said Dr Jones.

“Patient safety comes first in general practice and all prescribers and dispensers of drugs should have access to a detailed database of prescribing information, enabling them to make informed decisions in the best interest of a patient.”

The RACGP is committed to addressing real time prescription drug monitoring and will work with all interested organisations to develop a suitable and effective monitoring system.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

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