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SafeScript NSW – Real Time Prescription Monitoring

SafeScript NSW provides prescribers and pharmacists with real-time information about a patient’s prescribing and dispensing history for certain high-risk medicines, known as monitored medicines. This information helps to improve clinical decision making and keep patients safe.

Patient in doctors office during a consult.

The Challenge

Increasing harm from unsafe use of monitored medicines is a major public health concern. In 2019, there were 1,644 unintentional deaths due to drug overdoses in Australia. Of these, 429 deaths (26%) were due to pharmaceutical opioids (e.g. codeine, morphine or oxycodone). Benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam, nitrazepam or alprazolam) are also being increasingly identified in unintentional drug-induced deaths, accounting for 582 deaths (35%)1.

SafeScript NSW assists prescribers and pharmacists to:

  • Review their patients’ prescribing and dispensing history for monitored medicines
  • Identify patients who are receiving prescriptions for monitored medicines from multiple prescribers, placing them at increased risk of harm
  • Consider their patients’ total daily dose of opioids when making decisions about their care
  • Identify patients who may be taking harmful combinations of monitored medicines.

1 Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2021

It is integrated really well and easy to use. I have a lot more insight and information about what is going on with patients now.
Dr Natalie Cordowiner, General Practitioner, 2022
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Patient in doctors office during a consult.

The Plan

SafeScript NSW is part of NSW Health’s commitment to reduce harm from monitored medicines and help save lives. It is part of a national real-time prescription monitoring program and is being delivered by eHealth NSW in partnership with the Ministry of Health.

Close consultation with clinicians has been at the heart of SafeScript NSW. We have engaged with general practitioners; community pharmacists; pain management, drug and alcohol specialists; and clinical peak bodies as well as Primary Health Networks and NSW Local Health Districts to better understand their requirements and ensure the system meets their needs.

Consumer representative groups and individuals with lived experience of chronic pain or drug dependence were also consulted through a series of forums. Partnering with Painaustralia and the NSW Users and AIDS Association has helped to ensure consumers’ perspectives are incorporated into the design and rollout of the system.

It’s an essential tool for pharmacists to dispense medications safety.
Karen Carter, Pharmacist, 2022
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Pharmacist discussing medication with customer whilst taking notes on a clipboard.

The Outcome

SafeScript NSW was rolled out to health practitioners across the state in stages. It was first made available to prescribers and pharmacists in Hunter New England and Central Coast from November 2021. From March 2022, Northern Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains were able to register. SafeScript NSW was then made available to all remaining eligible health practitioners in NSW in May 2022.

Engagement has been strong with over 50% of general practitioners and 50% of pharmacists registered for the system.

Authorised officers of the Ministry of Health are also accessing SafeScript NSW as part of their regulatory role in ensuring the safe supply of medicines in the community.

SafeScript NSW is designed to create better safety around prescribing and dispensing monitored medications. It is intended to keep patients safe and is not meant to prevent supply of these medicines to those who need them.
Kim Allgood, a consumer, with lived experience of chronic pain
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Pharmacist handing medication to customer.

The Benefits

Prescribers and pharmacists using SafeScript NSW have provided positive feedback overall. They found it to be an easy-to-use, helpful clinical tool, and reported a seamless integration with clinical software.

Some of the expected benefits of SafeScript NSW are:

  • Increased availability of monitored medicines history to enable more informed clinical decision making
  • Decreased harm from non-prescribed use of monitored medicines
  • Decreased non-prescribed use of monitored medicines
  • Increased regulatory efficiency through availability and use of new regulatory tools.

Key Stats
1,644
unintentional deaths due to drug overdoses in 2019, in Australia
30%
of eligible health practitioners were registered for SafeScript NSW within the first 3 months after the state-wide launch
429
deaths (26%) were due to pharmaceutical opioids (e.g. codeine, morphine or oxycodone)
582
deaths (35%) were due to benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam, nitrazepam or alprazolam)

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