The ACT now has a real-time prescription monitoring system in a bid to curb the misuse of controlled drugs such as opioids.
It follows recommendations from Coroner Margaret Hunter to set up the scheme in 2017, after an inquest into the death of Canberra man Paul Fennessy, who died of a prescription drug overdose in 2010.
The government hopes the system will prevent doctor shopping and limit the misuse of controlled drugs.
The online prescription monitoring website, known as DORA, is now available for eligible health professionals.
It will allow doctors and pharmacists in Canberra to check in real time all controlled medicines that have been dispensed to their patient.
Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said doctors and pharmacists would now have vital information available to them to assist in making better and safer clinical decisions for their patients before a prescription is written or dispensed.
“Whilst controlled medicines play an important role in patient treatment, unfortunately some controlled medicines can lead to an addiction or even an overdose when patients are able to access these medications inappropriately and or too frequently," she said.
“This system will help health professionals to identify unusual patterns of use by a patient, such as incorrect, inappropriate and over-use."
The schedule 8 medications which the monitoring system will cover include strong opioids used for pain like oxycodone and morphine, as well as stimulants like dexamphetamine which is prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Ms Fitzharris urged all eligible doctors and pharmacists to apply and register for DORA so they could start using it.
“Unfortunately, the misuse of pharmaceuticals is a nationwide problem and tragically the number of harms including deaths from prescription medicines is now higher than illegal drugs," she said.
“DORA has put the ACT on the front foot for adopting national real-time prescription monitoring in the future, as the Federal Government plans to implement its national monitoring system from this year.
"The ACT Government is supportive and plans to adopt the full functions of the national system, following the rollout of DORA."
ACT branch president of the Pharmacy Guild Simon Blacker welcomed the move, saying real-time monitoring was an essential step in helping to reduce misuse of prescription medicines.
“The unfortunate reality is that Australia is experiencing an increasing rate of misuse of prescription medicines,” he said.
“The number of reports of harm, including deaths, from prescription medicines is increasing and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that over the past decade, drug-induced deaths were more likely to be due to prescription drugs than illegal drugs.
“To date there has been no unified system to enable doctors and pharmacists to track patient use and identify vulnerable and at-risk patients.
“This system is a great step forward.”