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Prescription Drug Crisis Downunder

Herald Sun, Australia, May 18/19, 2012

Herald Sun, Australia, May 18, 2012

A CORONER has called for restrictions on sleeping and anxiety pill prescriptions after it was revealed they account for more deaths than illicit drugs.

Coroner Audrey Jamieson said the drugs - known as benzodiazepines - needed to be reclassified to stop patients doctor shopping and overdosing.

She ordered a report into drug deaths while investigating the overdose of David Trengrove in 2010.

The 38-year-old Thornbury man died in his bed from a cocktail of sleeping and pain killing drugs.

An inquest heard he was a known doctor shopper and had a number of prescriptions over a long period of time.

Ms Jamieson said there was currently no monitoring of prescriptions for sleeping and anxiety drugs, despite them being classified as addictive.

She said there should be real time monitoring of the drugs to help doctors and pharmacists make prescribing and dispensing decisions on the spot.

Herald Sun Australia, May 19, 2012

PRESCRIPTION medications have been linked to more than three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths in Victoria, a coroner has found.

And nearly half of the 338 Victorians who died from drug or alcohol overdoses in 2010 had taken sleeping or anxiety pills, coroner Audrey Jamieson found.

The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association has called on the State and Federal governments to address the hidden crisis of prescription drug deaths.

In 2010, 137 Victorians died from prescription medication alone, compared with 50 from illicit drugs and 21 from alcohol, while the remainder died from different combinations of these.

Prescription drugs included diazepam, codeine, oxycodone, temazepam and paracetamol, while heroin was the only illicit drug that caused fatalities.

Ms Jamieson called for a clampdown on the drugs and for doctors to be more aware of the risks of death associated with misuse.

The court heard large amounts could be prescribed "cheaply and without restriction".

She recommended the Victorian Health Department introduce a real-time prescription monitoring system to reduce harm from "doctor shopping" - seeking prescriptions from several practitioners.

The court heard the software would be introduced in July.

She also recommended the federal health department more tightly control benzodiazepines, moving them to Schedule 8 of the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons.

"They would be subject to more stringent restrictions on prescribing and dispensing - restrictions that are appropriate and might help to reduce deaths," she said.

Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association executive officer Sam Biondo said the extent of the misuse and deaths from prescription drugs had been hidden.

"I think the time has come for there to be a sense of urgency around the impending crisis on this issue," he said.

Herald Sun Editorial, May 19, 2012

EVERYONE pops a pill and thinks nothing of it. But a report into drug deaths shows just how deadly drugs can be.

Legal drugs caused more deaths in Victoria than illegal drugs.

Drugs to relieve stress and anxiety. Drugs to help you sleep. Drugs to relieve pain. All can have serious side effects.

Prescription drugs, in a report to a coroner, were linked to 261 deaths and included diazepam, codeine, oxycodone, temazepam and paracetamol.

People must be better educated about drug misuse, whether the drugs are prescribed for them by doctors or simply bought off the shelf at a pharmacy or a supermarket.

Coroner Audrey Jamieson wants doctors to be more aware of the dangers of drug misuse. She wants an online monitoring system to combat a drug problem killing ordinary Australians, not just addicts.

Media Archive · Ashton Manual · Australia & New Zealnd Information

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