Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1537 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
I realise that there was a flurry of consultations and negotiations yesterday around our approach to this position and that wires may have been crossed here and there. If there has been any uncertainty or misunderstanding as a result of that, I regret it.
MR SMYTH (11.41): I want to comment on the words the Chief Minister used about the amendment. They are serious drugs we are talking about. I think we all acknowledge there is a use for them when people reach 19. You do not magically change your physiology when you hit 19 so that some drugs become less effective or more effective. The evidence I have seen suggests that these drugs are effective.
Ms Tucker made two points. Firstly, she spoke about the relationship between these changes and the work the Health Committee is currently undertaking and concerns in the community about overprescription. The Health Committee wants to look at the effect of Retinol on young people. Her second point was that the current legislation is a check. Ms Tucker said, "Let us leave the check in place until we do a bit more work." I do not think there is any harm in that.
I have made it clear to Mr Stanhope's staff that if the work of the committee shows that there is no reason to treat amphetamines for the use of ADHD differently to other schedule 8 drugs then I will be happy to revisit this legislation later in the year. I think a delay of six months is not unreasonable, given the work the Health Committee will do. At the end of the Health Committee inquiry we may decide to look at all schedule 8 drugs, their use, their effects and the process by which we issue them to members of the community.
Ritalin is a very powerful drug with some interesting uses, but there is also a black market in Ritalin. The Health Committee will explore whether you are issuing drugs that reasonably could have been stopped and whether these drugs may be going to the black market. Under the precautionary principle, it is reasonable to leave the status quo for a period of six months. That is not onerous in this case. We need to be careful in the issuing of schedule 8 drugs.
The Liberal Party will be voting with Ms Tucker. If the evidence shows that we do not need this protection, then we will be happy to revisit the matter later in the year.
MS DUNDAS (11.43): Ms Tucker has raised very good points, echoed by Mr Smyth, about overprescription. I think this needs addressing. I thank Ms Tucker for bringing it to the attention of the Assembly. However, I do not believe that this amendment addresses the problem. We have not had a lot of time to consider this amendment. It was circulated in the last half-hour.
We need to be aware of what the legislation says. If proposed subsection 58 (6), which the amendment seeks to amend, is passed, a doctor, without the Chief Health Officer's approval, may prescribe amphetamines to a person if the doctor believes that the person is not drug dependent or has been using a drug of dependence continuously for two months and the doctor believes that the person is suffering from narcolepsy or ADHD and the prescription for use is for a period of no longer than two months.