A large-scale pilot program testing the efficacy of real-time monitoring of codeine-containing medicines is to kick off soon in 150 Australian pharmacies.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is proceeding with the trial as pharmacy attempts to retain access to S3 codeine products following last year’s deferral of the proposed rescheduling of these medicines.
The Guild, along with industry groups and some allied health professionals have argued that real-time monitoring in community pharmacy would be more effective and economical than up-scheduling in identifying at-risk consumers and facilitating access to education materials and referrals when required.
Trials of a prototype real-time monitoring system, titled “MedsASSIST – informing medicine decisions”, took place in 30 pharmacies in the Newcastle, NSW, area in December 2015.
Modifications to the prototype have been incorporated and the system is ready for a large-scale pilot involving up to 150 pharmacies in the Newcastle and North Queensland regions.
Guild national president George Tambassis said the pilot will commence in early February 2016 and “will collect very important data to help make the case that it is not necessary for the Government to re-schedule codeine containing medicines to Schedule 4 (Prescription Only)”.
Unlike Project STOP, which is primarily a law enforcement tool to prevent diversion of pseudoephedrine, the new program is a clinical decision support system, helping pharmacists to identify patients who are at risk of codeine dependence.
“The system will also have the capacity for pharmacists to record clinical information and provide guidance regarding suitable referral pathways to support patients to better manage their pain and enhance health outcomes,” Mr Tambassis said.
The national rollout of the system, developed by the Guild in partnership with the Australian Self Medication Industry, is scheduled to commence in March with a launch of MedsASSIST planned for the APP Conference on the Gold Coast.
Mr Tambassis said pharmacists who tested the prototype had “provided valuable input and advice on the improving the system’s usability and efficiency”.
The data collected in the MedsASSIST pilot will form part of the Guild’s submission to the Advisory Committee on Medicine Scheduling, which is meeting in mid-March to reconsider its interim decision to delete the Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 entries for codeine.