Victoria is about to launch a long-promised real-time prescription monitoring system to cover all restricted drugs, with a trial to begin next month in the state’s west.
The SafeScript system will be trialled by doctors, pharmacists and nurse practitioners in the Western Victoria Primary Health Network, before being rolled out across the state early next year.
“Too many Victorians have died from the misuse of prescription medications. SafeScript will save lives,” Health minister Jill Hennessey said.
The system will guarantee “up-to-the-minute” information on patients’ prescription histories to avoid the dispensing of unsafe quantities of medications, the government said.
It will monitor high-risk Schedule 8 medicines such as morphine and oxycodone, S4 medications, including diazepam and recently up-scheduled codeine products, the anti-psychotic quetiapine, and so-called Z-class drugs used against insomnia.
The database is expected to capture an estimated 4.5 million prescriptions a year.
The government said it was bent on stopping “doctor shopping” by patients who were dependent on prescription medications.
In 2016, 372 Victorians died from overdoses involving pharmaceutical medicines, beating the number of overdose deaths involving illicit drugs (257) and more than the state’s road toll (291). Last year’s death toll linked to prescription drugs was 414.
SafeScript is the first full-scale effort to halt doctor shopping on the Australian mainland and was modelled on Tasmania’s DORA system, credited with slashing prescription-drug overdoses in that state.
It will become mandatory in the state after an 18-month introductory period.
The government says it is investing $29.5 million to implement SafeScript, including $1 million on training and support for health practitioners.
Training is already under way in the western Victorian PHN catchment.
A new awareness campaign, including TV advertising, is due to begin this week, highlighting the dangers posed by prescription medications.
A dedicated pharmaceuticals hotline offering free, expert and confidential advice and support was also available for people who were concerned about their use of high-risk medicines, the government said.