DORA makes a difference in saving Tassie lives

DORA makes a difference in saving Tassie lives

AN average of 40 patient red-flag “interventions” are being made in Tasmania every day by doctors, pharmacists and health regulators to stop the potential fatal misuse of prescription drugs.

Tasmania’s chief pharmacist Peter Boyles says the state’s real-time reporting system has stopped the prescribing and dispensing of opioid analgesic drugs, such as morphine, to between 30 and 50 prescription drug users daily.

This has helped slash the fatal overdose rate from an average of 25 to about 17 deaths a year, the Sunday Tasmanian can reveal.

And the number of interventions — of varying degrees of significance — initiated by pharmacists and doctors was growing, Mr Boyles said.

The Drugs and Poisons Information System Online Remote Access (DORA) system, which only operates in Tasmania but is being considered nationally, is successfully tackling the problem of doctor shopping, where users can play two doctors off against each other to obtain medication.

Department of Health and Human Services regulators alert doctors and pharmacists when the supply of medication to a red-flagged patient has the high potential to cause harm.

Tasmania has traditionally had a disproportionately high rate of prescription drug misuse, overuse and abuse, perhaps compounded by the state’s older population and, at times, long elective surgery waiting lists.

“Each week there are a number of instances where, due to this system being used, a medication isn’t prescribed or dispensed that had significant potential to cause harm,” Mr Boyles said.

“These interventions in part are responsible for the reduction of deaths.

“Before DORA, Tasmania averaged 25 deaths a year from Schedule 8 opioid analgesics prescription drug overdoses.

“Since DORA started, this has fallen to around 17 deaths a year.

“While some progress has been made on introducing a national system, Tasmania remains the only place in Australia that has a real-time prescription monitoring system.”

Pharmacy Guild of Australia state president and North-West Coast pharmacist John Dowling said DORA was undoubtably saving lives. “I think it’s been pretty effective,” Mr Dowling said.

However, he said the system should be made compulsory for all pharmacists.

The Department of Health and Human Services says “over 90 per cent of pharmacists are real-time reporting.”

“I was surprised it was not mandated,” Mr Dowling said.

“That’s always the problem with any of these sorts of things, if there’s a weak link.

 “Ideally we would have everybody hooked up.”

Mr Dowling also said it was disappointing DORA or a similar system had not been adopted nationally, given its success in Tasmania.

The Australian Medical Association again aired its frustrations in November last year, ahead of a meeting of state and territory health ministers, that Tasmania was still the only state to tackle doctor shopping. “I believe the cost of running it in those bigger states has put them off,” Mr Dowling said.

If you need help, Lifeline 13 1144 or Tasmanian Alcohol and Drug Services, 1300 139 641

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