Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1535 ..
Bill, by leave, taken as a whole.
MS TUCKER (11.31): I move the amendment circulated in my name [see schedule 3 at page 1594].
As I said last week, I have some concerns about removing the up-front check by the Chief Health Officer on prescriptions for people over the age of 18 for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The amendment I have moved retains the status quo that for all people 19 and over, so that before a prescription can be written, even for less than two months, the Chief Health Officer must give approval. My office had a briefing from the Chief Health Officer and a pharmacist, and we learnt how effective the ACT system of regulation is. It backs up doctors faced with the occasional aggressive patient who wants to be prescribed amphetamines. The doctor can say, "No. I need to get the approval of the Chief Health Officer. I cannot, by law, just prescribe this drug to you now." I was also informed how thorough the pre-prescription check is. It is not just ticking a box. It sees that the required referrals are in place and checks on the records.
As members are aware, the Standing Committee on Health is looking at the health of school-aged children in Canberra. Medication of children would be well within the terms of reference of that inquiry. While this legislation deals with 19-year-olds, they are children a year younger. If the community are concerned about the medication of children and a committee of the Assembly is looking at that, it is pre-emptive to change the arrangement for people over 18.
For that reason, I think it is much more sensible for us to keep the status quo until we have a chance to involve the community in discussion, which is probably overdue, on the medication of children and young people. While 18 and 19-year-olds are not strictly school-aged children, they are still young people. If as a society or a committee we think further work needs to be done on this, it will have implications for young people once they reach 19. We are pre-empting the work by supporting this change.
This change apparently reflects current prescribing practice. It is current prescribing practice that we want to look at. The treatment of ADD by this method is a bit controversial, and we would like the opportunity to look at it.
We know from talking to members of the community who work with drug and substance abuse that Ritalin and these kinds of substances are traded and injected. We have seen a huge increase in tablets consumed in the ACT. In 1989, 20,600 tablets were consumed. In 2001, 441,200 tablets were consumed. Statistics for the last 14 months show that around 10 per cent of people prescribed amphetamines were over the age of 19; around 90 per cent were under. By itself, this statistic cannot tell us the whole story and we need to consider overall population growth, but it is certainly worth thinking about. As I said, Ritalin is one of the drugs that are injected by some drug users, creating additional health problems. We cannot prevent leakage of prescribed drugs entirely. But it seems to me to make sense to retain what checks we have in place until we have done the work in the committee.