Opioid action urgent

New data showing increasing opioid-related harm and misuse in Australia has added to the growing impetus for collaborative and effective nationwide action, says the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA).

The ‘Opioid harm in Australia and comparisons between Australia and Canada’ report reveals deaths involving opioids have almost doubled in the past 10 years in Australia, while 3.1 million Australians had one or more prescriptions dispensed for opioids in 2016-17.

SHPA CEO Kristin Michaels says opioid prescription to manage acute pain following surgery in a public hospital is a key trigger for potential misuse.

“This report adds to a growing body of international evidence that shows the rise in opioid related harm in comparable healthcare systems and the need for urgent action,” she said. “This growth has been driven by a range of factors, including unrealistic expectations of pain management, overprescribing and a lack of evidence based educational programs for health professionals.

“Feeding into this environment, it’s increasingly recognised that opioid use after treatment in hospital is an important factor, and therefore, hospital pharmacists and their healthcare colleagues can play a key role in mitigating the risk of future opioid misuse and dependence.”

Ms Michaels says the data in the report cannot be ignored.

“In 2016-17 there were 4,232 emergency department presentations, or 11.6 per day, for opioid poisoning and 9,636 hospitalisations, or 26 per day, with opioid poisoning as a diagnosis,” she said.

“As medicines experts working in multidisciplinary medical teams that treat people who are the most acutely sick or experiencing the most severe pain, SHPA members understand the reality behind these alarming figures and we will continue to work to influence policy change both with them and on their behalf.”

Ms Michaels says SHPA welcomes the report’s focus on the risk of misuse of pharmaceutical opioids, which comes four months after SHPA’s inaugural Medicines Leadership Forum focused on minimising opioid harm.

“SHPA continues to work with our members to understand their experiences and the role of hospital pharmacies in this important area of patient care and we look forward to working with clinical partners in this multidisciplinary area to improve long term patient outcomes.”


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