Study Highlights Increasing Risks of Opioid Misuse

By Petrina Smith
Wednesday, 16 July, 2014

The need to fast track real-time prescription reporting for some drugs has been given renewed impetus in a study highlighting the increasing risks of opioid misuse.

The study, “An overview of the patterns of prescription opioid use, costs and related harms in Australia”, published in the June edition of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, finds that between 1992 and 2012, opioid dispensing increased 15-fold (500,000 to 7.5 million) and the corresponding cost to the Australian government increased 32-fold ($8.5 million to $271 million).
“Opioid-related harms also increased; opioid-related hospitalisations increased from 605 to 1464 cases (1998-2009), outnumbering hospitalisations due to heroin poisonings since 2001. Deaths due to accidental poisoning (pharmaceutical opioids and illicit substances combined) increased from 151 to 266 (2002-2011), resulting in a rise in the death rate of 0.78 to 1.19 deaths/100,000 population over 10 years. Death rates increased 1.8 fold in males and 1.4 fold in females,” the report states.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s NSW President, Dr Stephen Carter, said the report reinforced calls for the introduction of real-time reporting to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“The PSA has long been advocating strongly for this system and recently we put a submission to the NSW Coroner on this matter, a submission which was supported in the coronial findings,” Dr Carter said.
“We must stop talking about acting, and start acting. The introduction of real-time reporting is a public health issue.
“PSA has been told there are resource and other issues for the NSW Ministry of Health in implementing real-time reporting but we must stop making excuses for finding ways not to do something, and rather start finding ways to do something.”
Dr Carter said reports had earlier indicated that a roll out of real-time reporting in NSW would take three years.
“The Real Time Drug Monitoring System is recognised by PSA and the medical profession as reducing the risks of doctor shopping, reducing the harms caused by the misuse of prescription drugs and saving many lives,” Dr Carter said.
“The NSW Government must immediately allocate funds for this project and begin its implementation as a Statewide health priority.”
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