Hospital Unveils a New Weapon in Battle Against Overdose Deaths

BRHS Pharmacist Genelle Hammond.
Photo: Jake Lynch/BRHS

 

It may surprise you to learn that in 2017 more Victorians died of overdoses involving pharmaceutical medicines (414) than of illicit drugs (271).

In fact, more people were killed that year by overdosing on prescription medications than die on our roads (258).

Coronial data shows that over 90 percent of the total overdoses in East Gippsland between 2009 and 2015 involved prescription medications.

It’s a sobering statistic. It’s also an urgent issue in our community.

Which is why we’ve adopted a new online system that makes it possible for us to keep an eye on our patients’ prescription history of certain high-risk medications, such as opioids and sedative medications.

The system is called SafeScript, and it’s a real-time prescription monitoring system the Victorian Government is currently rolling out in medical clinics, hospitals and pharmacies across the state.

Information about when a medication is prescribed by a doctor, and when a prescription is dispensed by a pharmacy is recorded in SafeScript. This information includes patient name, address, details of medicines supplied (name, strength and quantity), and doctor and pharmacy details.

“It can get complicated, keeping track of your medication,
particularly when you’re in pain or discomfort.”

Doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists who are involved in your care may view your prescription history in SafeScript to ensure the supply of prescription medicines is safe for you.

“While one of the reasons for the development of SafeScript was to prevent people from deliberately overusing prescription medications, we’re really conscious of our responsibility to protect our patients and prevent them from inadvertently ‘doubling up’ or accidently mismanaging their prescriptions,” said BRHS Chief Pharmacist Margie Griffiths.

“It can get complicated, keeping track of your medication, particularly when you’re in pain or discomfort. SafeScript now allows us, quickly and easily, to see what medications a patient has already collected, how much, and whether there are any concerns with their prescriptions.”

SafeScript does not instruct or make a decision for your doctor, nurse practitioner or pharmacist on whether you should be prescribed or supplied with a prescription medicine.

The system came online in Western Victoria in October of last year, and in two months identified almost 3,300 patients at risk of harm or overdose from visiting multiple clinics or pharmacies.

To support the roll-out of the SafeScript system, the not-for-profit organisation ScriptWise has launched the One Too Many initiative, to raise awareness about the risks associated with long-term use of prescription opioids such as opioids or benzodiazepines.

To learn more about ScriptWise and the One Too Many campaign visit www.scriptwise.org.au/one-too-many.

You can learn more about SafeScript at www.health.vic.gov.au/safescript, or just ask one of our friendly pharmacists next time you’re at the hospital.