Imagine that you tried to fill your script and were told that your usage has been flagged as a potential risk because the medicine you are using is now being monitored.
Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll start hearing more about Real Time Prescription Monitoring (RTPM), a national system that is now being implemented by each State and Territory. The RTPM system was developed to address growing concern about overdose and accidental deaths. Theoretically, it is only seeking to reduce inappropriate use.
RTPM is a computer system that provides pharmacists and prescribers with medicine history information about a consumer’s use of monitored drugs (for example, diazepam and tramadol). Pharmacists and prescribers can use this information when considering prescribing or dispending these drugs, with the aim of reducing misuse and harm of controlled medicines in Australia.
What else would you like to know about RTPM?
Each state and territory in Australia is at a different stage of setting up and utilising RTPM. Some jurisdictions, like Victoria, have already implemented theirs while others are working towards rolling out their system in the near future. Painaustralia has been consulting consumers and providing advice in the development of these systems. We are currently members of the NSW and ACT Real Time Prescription Monitoring steering committees and our role will be to make sure that the consumer’s voice is heard.
If the system is developed and implemented well, it could be a valuable tool to find the right pathways for consumers, enabling them to better use the medications they are taking. It could also enable a conversation about the role of medications within a holistic pain management approach.
But if the system is used as a punitive measure, without support for the consumer or leading to better available treatments, it could create further barriers and stigma for people living with pain.
Access to medications for people living with chronic pain has been a significant issue with recent opioid changes making it even more important to ensure that consumers are not inappropriately denied access to necessary pain management options.
How concerned are you about how RTPM will affect you?
A system designed to reduce harm must include the necessary information and support to build collaborative relationships between health professionals and consumers. One of Painaustralia’s concerns is the lack of consistency to the approaches each State and Territory might take in implementing RTPM. Are the same medicines being monitored in the same way across jurisdictions and how might variations affect consumers who travel or cross borders to fill their scripts? Will GPs and prescribers be educated about pain management and appropriate alternatives to medications? Will consumers have an avenue through which they can request a review if their medication is ceased?
What other questions do you have about RTPM that we can take to these committees?
For a complex issue such as reducing medication harm, we need considered approaches that focus on solutions, not just punitive measures. Until access to best-practice pain management is improved across Australia, we should be very cautious when implementing new systems that could further complicate pain management for the millions of Australians living with pain.
Consumers need to be the primary focus when implementing a system with such great potential impact upon access to pain treatment.
As the national peak body for people living with pain, Painaustralia will continue to discuss RTPM and its implementation with state and territory departments and push for better support and access to pain management options.