In an open letter to state and territory Health Ministers across Australia, close to 30 family members who have lost a loved one to prescription medication overdose have called for action to prevent others from experiencing a similar loss.
The families feel that their heartfelt plea for national real-time prescription monitoring and more community education will ensure their loved ones did not die in vain.
In 2016, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
+ Prescription medications, not illicit drugs, caused the highest numbers of drug induced deaths
+ 663 Australians died due to a sedative medication (benzodiazepine) induced death, and
+ 784 Australians died due to a prescription opioid induced death (codeine, oxycodone, fentanyl, tramadol or pethidine)
Dear Australia State and Territory Health Ministers,
As family members who have lost loved ones due to the harmful use of prescription medications, we implore you to implement mandatory real-time prescription monitoring without delay.
We write to ask you to recognise the tragic consequences of prescription medication overdose, and act to prevent more deaths by improving education and understanding about this issue. We want all Australians using these legal drugs to be fully aware of the possible consequences of their misuse.
We feel compelled to write, in memory of our loved ones, so that all governments may take the necessary action to fix the current prescription systems that are broken, out of date and totally inadequate in this modern age of technology.
Coroners, doctors, police, paramedics, health care workers and all professional peak medical bodies have advocated for national real-time monitoring for many years. How many more loved ones have died since we started campaigning? Some of us have been campaigning as far back as 2007. How many more families will endure loss of a loved one, as we have, before our governments act?
There is no doubt that a national real-time prescription monitoring system will save lives. It will provide health professionals with information enabling them to make effective, appropriate and informative decisions when prescribing and dispensing these medications. This will give doctors the opportunity to talk to their patients about their treatments and offer alternatives when needed.
We would like to acknowledge the Tasmanian and Victorian Governments for implementing this life- saving system and are encouraged by commitments from other States and the ACT to follow their example. The consequences of further delays will mean more overdoses and loss of lives – we are trying to prevent this from happening!
Our borders are porous and without an integrated national system, those using prescription medications unsafely will continue to cross borders in search of their ‘drugs of choice’, just as some of our family members did.
We are not doctors or experts in addiction – we are simply mums and dads, brothers and sisters, or family members who have lost loved ones due to the inadequacies of the current prescribing system and a lack of understanding about the harms associated with using these medications.
Hopefully, sharing our stories will encourage action so that the deaths of our loved ones will not have been in vain and future lives will be saved.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to consider our request.
Yours in anticipation,
Lizzie Brennan (WA)
Sheila Brennan (WA)
Wilma Borgmeyer (WA)
Talia Carter (QLD)
Christine Campbell (WA)
Jade Driscoll (QLD)
Rayleen Fagan (VIC)
Ann Finlay (ACT)
Susan Fisher (QLD)
Meghan Fraser (NSW)
Murray Hall (WA)
Nick Jacobson (QLD)
Desley Kendell (NSW)
Jayne Jones (QLD)
Kim Ledger (WA)
Donna Mangles (VIC)
Sandra McGivern (QLD)
Margaret Millington (VIC)
Carol Muir-Stokes (QLD)
Jasmin Raggam (QLD)
Erwin Raggam (QLD)
Melany Raggam (QLD)
Liesa Raggam (QLD)
Darren Ross (QLD)
Israela Sharman (QLD)
Carolyn Tann (WA)
Slade Whitby (QLD)
Kurt Whitby (QLD)
If you too have experienced the loss of a loved one to prescription medication overdose and would like to sign the open letter, please contact Lara Beissbarth at firstname.lastname@example.org