RACGP calls for long-term solution to opioid dependence

Wednesday, 22 November, 2023

RACGP calls for long-term solution to opioid dependence

The Australian Government’s decision to extend the period that opioid dependence treatment drugs can be administered by GPs has been welcomed by the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP).

Earlier this year, the government agreed to include opioid dependence treatment medicines, such as methadone and buprenorphine, in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), with the result that patients will face out-of-pocket costs of $30 a month, rather than $5 to $15 every day. However, as part of the changes, GPs who had been ordering treatments directly from manufacturers to administer in their practice had to stop doing so from 30 November.

Now, after listening to the concerns of the RACGP, the government has delayed the impending ban on GPs administering opioid dependence treatment medicines, including long-acting buprenorphine, as a private script until 30 June next year.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said that this was the right decision.

“The delay will ensure that there is minimal disruption to patient care over the busy holiday period and give the state and territory governments more time to transition patients to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme arrangements or to implement alternative opioid dependence treatment access arrangements for patients,” she said.

“As I have said previously, the college is supportive of increased access to opioid dependency therapy through pharmacy. However, we believe that GPs still have a vital role to play, and GPs and community pharmacists can and should work together to make sure that as many people as possible with opioid dependency get the help they need.”

RACGP Alcohol and Other Drugs Spokesperson Dr Hester Wilson backed Dr Higgins’ comments and called for a long-term solution.

“This is another positive step forward, but let’s not stop here. I call on the federal government to not only delay the proposed changes to 30 June 2024, but instead find a long-term solution that allows direct access to long-acting buprenorphine,” Wilson said.

“Otherwise, we may well see negative impacts on some of our most vulnerable patients who rely on this treatment. There is so much more we can do to help people with alcohol and other drug problems, and that includes ensuring that all patients have access to the care and treatment they need. At the end of the day, every life matters — it’s as simple as that.”

Image credit: iStock.com/Tashatuvango

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