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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 7 June 2018) . . Page.. 2195 ..

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12.26): The opposition will support this bill. I thank the minister for arranging a briefing for me, which took place earlier this week. I also appreciate the quick response from the minister’s office to questions I raised during the briefing.

In short, this bill extends the application of ACT Health’s existing drugs and poisons information system, known as DAPIS. It is mandatory already for pharmacists to upload to DAPIS information about dispensed schedule 8 drugs. Schedule 8 drugs—so-called controlled medicines—are those that carry an increased risk of dependency, abuse, misuse or diversion; that is, supply to a third party.

This bill will enable an add-on to DAPIS, known as DORA, or the drugs and poisons information system online remote access. Ultimately, DORA will enable real-time monitoring of the prescribing and dispensing of schedule 8 drugs. Any properly authorised health practitioner will have access to this database.

Thus, a doctor authorised to prescribe schedule 8 drugs will be able to see a patient’s record as to their use of schedule 8 drugs before writing a script. This, for example, will counter any practice of doctor-shopping. A pharmacy dispensing a schedule 8 drug will be able to see the patient’s record, to monitor, for example, when the script was last filled, and whether a suitable time frame has elapsed between then and the present. The ultimate aim of this system is that it be used nationally.

This bill contemplates information sharing across jurisdictions. Right now, only Tasmania has a drug monitoring system in place, but Victoria and Western Australia are working on it. Hopefully, other jurisdictions will follow. Obviously, take-up in New South Wales will complement the ACT system. The objective is one of harm minimisation and prevention of misuse of schedule 8 drugs.

I note this bill implements the recommendations of the coroner, given in 2016, arising from the inquest into the death of Mr Paul Fennessy. Even though we have waited for more than eight years since his death in 2010 to introduce this system, I hope that this will bring comfort and closure to Mr Fennessy’s family and that it will help reduce future incidents of prescription drug overdoses.

I hope this bill will also strengthen the effect of the now finally adopted national guidelines for medication-assisted treatment of opioid dependence, which the commonwealth released in 2014. There is some way to go before DORA is fully operational and links with other jurisdictions can be established. However, this bill is a very important step for the ACT and I applaud its introduction.

MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (12.29): Prescription pharmaceutical drugs are readily available in our community. They play an important role in preventing, treating and curing disease. At the same time we cannot ignore the harms that these substances can cause if they are misused, and particularly if they lead to dependence. The effects of this kind of non-medical use of pharmaceuticals are wide-ranging and include physical, mental and social harms. Often these harms can be equivalent to, or in fact worse than, those caused by the use of illicit substances.

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