Painaustralia has welcomed the announcements made by Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt MP that ensure Australia has a strong regulatory response to the rising risk of opioid related harm in our communities.
The Minister’s announcement includes the restrictions on opioid pack sizes, clearer and stronger boxed warnings and Consumer Medication Information (CMI) as well as restrictions on prescribing of high risk opioid products like fentanyl. These regulations are all a step in the right direction to address the rising toll of opioid related harm in Australia.
Over 3.24 million people who live with chronic pain today face limited options when it comes to best practice pain management. This epidemic of pain in Australia is what has seen problematic increases in the level of harm and deaths due to opioids.
Over three million people were prescribed 15.4 million opioid scripts in 2016–17. Concerningly, opioids now account for 62% of drug-induced deaths, with pharmaceutical opioids now more likely than heroin to be involved in opioid deaths and hospitalisations. [i] In 2016–17 there were 5,112 emergency department presentations and 9,636 hospitalisations due to opioid poisoning, with three deaths per day attributed to opioid harm, higher than the road toll.[ii]
Regulatory measures are one of the most effective tools we have in ensuring that opioid related harm across our communities is minimised. Other significant measures, like the Ministers announcement of funding to support community awareness as well as health practitioner education, are other important steps that will ensure that we are also supporting millions of people who still need access to pain management.
The National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management, launched in June, also provides a clear pathway to meet the challenges that chronic pain poses to all Australians. The Plan will be presented to the Council of Australian Government’s for endorsement in the coming months.
The Deloitte Access Economics Cost of Pain report released by Minister Hunt in April this year has highlighted the seriousness of the pain burden in Australia and makes a clear case for investment and support to prevent and manage chronic pain conditions, so that we can stem the rising tide of opioid related harm, while also ensuring that we meet the needs of the millions of Australians who live with chronic pain.
Read our blog on the new regulatory announcements here.
[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Opioid harm in Australia and comparisons between Australia and Canada. Cat. no. HSE 210. Canberra: AIHW
[ii] Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (2018). Australian overdose deaths are increasing – and the demographics are changing. News GP. Access online here.