The Minister for Health, Michelle O'Byrne, today released a world-leading review aimed at ensuring safer prescribing and use of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain in Tasmania.
Ms O'Byrne said while prescription opioid use has grown rapidly internationally and nationally it was particularly disturbing in Tasmania with scripts rising from 19,300 in 1999 to 127,000 in 2010.
"There is growing concern about the harms associated with these drugs among chronic pain patients and about non-medical use, misuse and diversion for illegal use," she said.
"The misuse of opioids is dangerous and potentially fatal so we must act to ensure their appropriate use here in Tasmania."
Increased use in Australia may result from a larger range of drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and more patients being prescribed opioid analgesics in higher doses for chronic non-malignant pain management.
Ms O'Byrne said although opioid analgesics were well-established in cancer pain treatment, their role in chronic non-malignant pain management was less clear and evidence of harm was growing.
"To reduce the risk of harm, the Department of Health and Human Services commissioned a review last year to investigate Tasmanian prescribing practices of opioids and other drugs of dependence."
The review, conducted by National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and delivered earlier this year, has resulted in a major report: A review of Opioid Prescribing in Tasmania - A blueprint for the future.
The review's 61 recommendations will shape clinical, regulatory and population-level approaches for the use of opioids in chronic pain management at a local, national and possibly international level.
"These recommendations are national and considered world leading - they will promote best practice and safe use of these essential medications in Tasmania and further afield."
Ms O'Byrne said a careful process of scrutiny was now needed to ensure the review's recommendations get the attention they deserve and to determine a suitable response.
This work will be supported by a suitably qualified person and supported by a reference group drawn from stakeholder organisations, including medical groups, university, clinical pain management services, regulators and government.
Ms O'Byrne said the Department has also completed an updated set of clinical practice guidelines to inform the treatment of opioid dependence with methadone and buprenorphine.
"The Tasmanian Opioid Pharmacotherapy Program, Policy and Clinical Practice Standards will replace the outdated Tasmanian Methadone Policy 2000," she said.
"This important document will ensure that individuals and their families affected by opioid dependence will receive high quality, contemporary, safe and effective treatment."
This release originally appeared on the Tasmanian Premier's website.