Importance of medicine safety in mental health care cannot be ignored

Engaging pharmacists in the delivery of mental health care in Australia will lead to earlier intervention, improved treatment outcomes and a reduction in medication harms, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has argued in its response to the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report on Mental Health.


“Almost half of all Australians will experience mental ill-health during their lifetime. Tragically, thousands of people lose their life to suicide each year and it is estimated that for every death from intentional self-harm, as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives. This is a health crisis that touches us all and, as the Productivity Commission highlighted, we can do a lot better when it comes to providing care,” Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman said.


“Medicines are a major treatment modality in most mental illnesses so it is disappointing the Productivity Commission report failed to question how we can improve medication efficacy and safety,” A/Prof Freeman said. “Utilising the medicine expertise of pharmacists in the multidisciplinary care team, tailoring medication therapies and reviewing patient’s medication management can positively impact adherence, effectiveness of medicines prescribed and safe use of medicines.”


“Access to health care is vital for people dealing with mental health illness, yet there are a range of barriers that can limit people’s access to a general practitioner. With the majority of Australians visiting their pharmacist around 14 times a year, our profession can help care for and triage patients experiencing mental ill-health or a mental health crisis.”


Research released last year found 85 per cent of pharmacists had interacted with someone at risk of suicide at least once and 10 per cent have interacted with someone at risk of suicide more than 10 times.


“Enabling pharmacists to recognise potential signs and symptoms of mental ill-health, support patients and refer on to GPs or emergency care, has the potential to not only improve outcomes, but potentially save lives,” A/Prof Freeman said.


“We have called on governments across the nation to provide funding to increase pharmacist mental health first aid training and reiterated this recommendation in our response to the Productivity Commission.

“PSA does not believe we can address mental health challenges without considering quality use of medicines (QUM) and hopes the Productivity Commission’s final report will tackle this vital issue.”


The Pharmaceutical Society made five key recommendations to the Productivity Commission:

  1. Develop and implement regular review of medicines for people with mental ill health to reduce the time to respond to medicine-related problems and to reduce debilitating side effects from medicines which can be preventable.
  2. Incorporate pharmacogenomic testing in primary care supported by medicines expertise of pharmacists for people with mental ill health to personalise medicine therapies to improve the safe and quality use of medicines.
  3. Integrate pharmacists in suicide prevention strategies, including supporting pharmacists in their triage role of providing support to people they encounter in mental health crisis situations.
  4. Support pharmacists, who are often one of the only front-line healthcare providers in rural and remote regions to incorporate early identification, triage and support for people with mental ill health.
  5. Ensure pharmacists, as frontline health professionals in contact with people with mental ill health, have the required expertise such as mental health first aid, to support early identification, triage and support for people with mental ill health.


Click here for a full copy of the submission


Media contact: PSA Media – 0487 922 176


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