GPs ramp up effort to reduce opioid abuse

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has released new guidelines to help GPs responsibly prescribe painkilling medications.

Efforts to reduce opioid and other prescription medication-related deaths in Australia have been boosted with the release of new prescribing guidelines by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said pain management has significant benefits for patients but painkilling medications must be prescribed and used responsibly.

"For many people, good pain management can transform their quality of life, allowing them to work, be active, and participate in the community rather than being functionally disabled," Dr Seidel said.

Unfortunately, there has been an "exploitation of painkilling medications", says Dr Seidel.

He says the new guidelines - unveiled at the medical body's annual scientific conference in Sydney on Thursday - have been produced largely in response to increasing concerns about the use and safety of opioids.

Analysis of ABS data by researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, released earlier this year, found 68 per cent of the 668 overdose deaths in 2013 were related to pharmaceutical opioids.

Dr Seidel says the new guideline will help GPs feel more comfortable and better supported when managing patients suffering from chronic pain.

"Currently 20 to 40 per cent of adult consultations in Australian general practice involve a chronic pain complaint," Dr Seidel said.

Dr Evan Ackermann - Deputy Chairman of the RACGP National Quality Committee - worked very closely on the development of the guidelines. He says for too long there has been no guidance in Australia to inform GPs on chronic pain management.

"The problem in pain management is that no drug works well. With chronic pain its a very difficult condition, its actually a group of conditions that you need to treat so its really important to treat each person individually and find the medications that works for them," Dr Ackermann told AAP.

In releasing the guidelines for pain management, the RACGP has also called on the federal government for better funding of pain management.

They've also called for improved hospital discharge summaries to assist GPs.

"A lot the problems with pain or problematic use of opioids often starts in the acute centre, so people legitimately get these opioids while in hospital but they've got no plan otherwise for when they go home to help them get off them," Dr Ackermann said.

Source AAP

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