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Australia moves to combat the misuse of prescription opioids

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1345 (Published 28 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1345
  1. Ann Silversides
  1. 1Sydney

As the misuse of prescription drugs increases in Australia, Ann Silversides talks to experts about the difficulties of restricting the prescribing of drugs which have important legitimate uses

Australian authorities are launching an array of initiatives in an effort to prevent the growing problem of the misuse of pharmaceutical drugs from reaching the proportions that now exist in the US.

The country has had a longstanding heroin problem, but hospitalisations for poisoning from prescription opioids have in recent years far exceeded those for heroin, Malcolm Dobbin, senior medical adviser (alcohol and drugs) for the Department of Health in Victoria, told the BMJ.

“We are starting to see rising numbers of hospital admissions, deaths, and pharmacy robberies,” said Dr Dobbin.

Using per capita base supply of oxycodone as a marker, Australia in 2008 was at about the same stage (about 60 kg per million population) as the US in 2000, when deaths from prescription opioids in that country exceeded those from heroin and cocaine, said Dr Dobbin. The gap between the nations has likely narrowed in recent years, he added.

In the US and Australia, the use and misuse of prescription …

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