Every year, millions of patients are admitted and discharged from hospitals in Australia and millions more undergo minor outpatient, or day procedure surgeries. Many of these patients and their carers find themselves battling pain management and, with it, the risk of medication dependence.
All too often, hospital admissions are due to medication-related problems and tragically thousands of Australians lose their lives every year due to unintentional drug overdose. According to the Penington Institute’s Annual Overdose Report 2021, more than 2,000 Australians lost their lives to overdose for the sixth year in a row. Tragically, the number of overdose deaths has outnumbered the road toll every year since 2014.
“While governments commit themselves to the important work of reducing the road toll, overdoses continue to claim the lives of thousands of our loved ones in virtual silence,” says Penington Institute CEO John Ryan.
Yet, the harm caused by unintentional drug overdose can be avoided with the right community healthcare support.
Raising awareness on overdose risks
Pharmacy 777 supports the Penington Institute’s International Overdose Awareness Day and helps to raise awareness about the risk of unintentional overdose. Our community pharmacists can help patients and their carers to prevent medication harm and address the challenges of medication dependence. Working with a community healthcare provider after hospital discharge is crucial to preventing readmission and helping carers support their loved ones during recovery.
“Community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals for patients and their carers and can provide you with the support and information you need about medicines and managing them,” says Pharmacy 777 pharmacist Kathryn Nankivell. “Pharmacists are ideally placed to support patients and their carers with their medications after being discharged from hospital. They will work side-by-side with you to review your medications, provide dose administration aids and home delivery services. Our pharmacists also connect with the health care team involved with the patient’s post-hospital care and ensure they have the best multidisciplinary care available.”
Another key area where a patient or their carer will visit their community pharmacy is to fill a prescription or seek help with pain management.
“We can help patients or carers interpret directions and explain possible side effects or expected duration of therapy,” Kathryn says. “We encourage patients or carers to call and ask us about any concerns they have with when or how to take their medicines. Asking questions and getting the best information can help reduce the likelihood of taking pain medicine for too long, which may contribute to dependence or to a patient developing a chronic pain syndrome. It is in these crucial conversations that we can ensure the patient is referred to their GP to review the prescribed pain treatment.”
Help through Naloxone provision
Pharmacy 777 also supports the Take Home Naloxone Pilot, where the drug naloxone is made freely available to people who are at risk of opioid overdose.
Naloxone is an important tool for avoiding overdose for anyone who uses opioid-based medicines for pain management and is supplied to eligible patients under state funding in Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales. It’s recommended that anyone using opioids keep a supply of naloxone at home. If you receive naloxone, tell your friends and family and show them how to use it.
The important role of community pharmacists in recommending naloxone to patients at risk has been recognised through the Government’s support of this vital service for the community, which has resulted in the service being extended to 30th June 2022.
Pharmacy 777 Managing Director Kim Brotherson says it’s important to train all pharmacists on the program so they are equipped to speak to any patient who may benefit. “Naloxone administration training and professional support can save lives and help reduce the number of overdose fatalities in our community.
We support Penington Institute in advocating for a National Overdose Prevention Strategy. It is crucial for our communities. A coordinated approach by doctors and pharmacists is pivotal to addressing potential prescription medication dependence, particularly for those who unintentionally become dependent, as is ensuring treatment options are made available to those in need.”
The Pharmacy 777 Group raises awareness and supports medication harm management through:
Providing advice to local communities about the potential harm associated with prescription medication dependence as well as illicit drug use including opioids, benzodiazepines, sedatives, alcohol, etc.
Increasing access to preventative and early intervention measures, including medication reviews, dose administration support and, where recommended, provision of naloxone.
Helping to reduce the stigma of medication dependence for patients and their carers.
Understanding that anyone can be affected by accidental overdose or medication dependence especially with common conditions such as serious injury, ongoing pain, post-surgery pain management, sleep issues, and other condition management.
Promoting the role of the community pharmacists to support effective medication management.
If you are a patient or carer needing support for pain management, hospital discharge support, or medication management, we encourage you to contact your local Pharmacy 777 Pharmacist to find out how they can help you.
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