New report reveals extent of medicines overuse across Australia

A report showing that Australia is not making progress on the issue of medicines overuse, including antibiotics, opioids and antipsychotics, demonstrates the importance of embedding pharmacists wherever medicines are used, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) said today.


Released by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, The Third Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation shows Australians in some areas, particularly aged care, are at risk of harm from medicines overuse.


PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson said the overuse of medicines such as antibiotics, opioids and antipsychotics demonstrates how the health system needs to change so healthcare professionals such as pharmacists can deliver the right care to the people who need it most.


“Pharmacists are the medicines experts who can make sure medicines are used safely and effectively in residential aged care facilities.”


According to the report, the overuse of antipsychotics to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia in aged care is of ‘grave concern’.


Dr Jackson welcomed the recommendation in the report for a pharmacist to conduct a medicines review after six months, with the outcomes to be provided to the treating general practitioner and placed on the medication record for people aged 65 years and over being prescribed antipsychotic medicines in aged care.


“PSA has called for pharmacists to be embedded in residential care facilities to reduce inappropriate medicine use and help address the overuse of opioids and antipsychotics,” Dr Jackson said.


The report also found that the rate of opioid medicines dispensing per 100,000 people increased by 5 per cent nationally, calling for continuing focus on improving medicine use in this area.


“Pharmacists are a key group of healthcare professionals who can help improve medication safety and quality to reduce the potential harms of opioids.


“The Chronic Pain MedsCheck Trial funded by the Australian Department of Health is an important step towards improving opioid use.


“The rate of prescribing antibiotics to children aged 9 years and under is very high, with more than 3 million prescriptions dispensed from 2016 to 2017.


“Overuse of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) medicines for conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease has also been an issue for a long time, despite guidance that recommends step-down therapy to avoid long-term complications.


“With their unique expertise in medicines, pharmacists are best placed to support rational use of medicines including PPIs to protect people from serious adverse outcomes.


“The report highlights the gaps in our healthcare system that are exposing people to harm from some medicines. Pharmacists are here to help protect all Australians from the risk of adverse effects by making sure they receive the right medicine for them.”



Media contact:

Jarryd Luke

Senior Communications Officer

0487 922 176