Top doctors call for pill testing, saying 'government policies failing our communities'

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has written an open letter to state and territory leaders, urging them to trial pill testing at music festivals.

Another group of doctors has thrown its support behind pill testing, writing to state and territory leaders claiming there is enough evidence it can help to warrant a trial.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which represents more than 17,000 physicians and paediatricians, has sent an open letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her counterparts urging them to follow the lead of the ACT.

"The RACP's experts in addiction medicine and public health medicine believe the evidence currently available justifies the introduction of carefully designed pill testing trials in Australia," Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said on Friday.

Pressure is mounting on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to reconsider her position on pill testing.
Source: AAP

"Ideally, we would all like young people and the wider public not to use drugs illicitly, however, the reality is that they do in large numbers and the moral message to abstain from taking drugs is not getting through."

They now join the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who are also urging governments to adopt pill testing.

Five people have died after taking drugs at music festivals in NSW alone since September.

A recent string of deaths at music festivals has seen a new push for pill testing.
Source: Music Feeds

Ms Berejiklian has consistently rejected calls to introduce pill testing, despite emotional pleas from the families of some of those who have died.

She believes there is not enough evidence to show it can save lives.

But the RACP says evidence to date shows that existing policies at festivals to discourage drug-taking, including heavy police presence, sniffer dogs and searches, are not effective.

"These policies are failing our communities and our young people, leading to unnecessary deaths," Dr Lloyd-Jones said.

Alex Ross-King was the fifth young person to die at a music festival during the Christmas/New Year period.
Source: AAP

He wants pill testing to be trialled in purpose-designed facilities by qualified technical specialists and be accompanied by appropriate advice and information.

It should be developed in consultation with physicians, pharmacologists, toxicologists and other experts, he said.

"Pill testing is by no means a panacea; it needs to be implemented in conjunction with other evidence-based harm minimisation measures that prioritise the health and safety of festival goers over criminal and legal measures."

The NSW coroner is looking into the recent five music festival deaths, with a directions hearing to be held next Tuesday ahead of a likely inquest.

Published 18 January 2019 at 8:26am, updated 18 January 2019 at 10:12am