Opioids the hot medication safety topic: National Medicines Symposium 2020

The misuse and overuse of opioids has been one of the most discussed topics at today’s National Medicines Symposium (NMS), hosted by NPS MedicineWise as a virtual event for the first time.

Participants have heard about the importance of empowering consumers to be active participants in pain management, examples of pharmacist-led opioid stewardship initiatives in general practice, and the role of reforms and regulation when it comes to opioids.

Ms Aili Langford, a PhD candidate from the University of Sydney School of Pharmacy presented on research currently underway investigating consumer attitudes and knowledge about opioids deprescribing, which will inform the development of a national opioid deprescribing guideline relevant to the Australian context.

“It’s important to incorporate consumer priorities and perspectives into the new guidelines so that opioid deprescribing is genuinely a shared decision between a consumer and a health professional, rather than something imposed on someone,” said Ms Langford.

NPS MedicineWise spokesperson and pharmacist Ms Rawa Osman says with an average of three people dying every day and nearly 150 people hospitalised because of harm from opioids, it is great to see the issue of opioids being discussed so robustly and by representatives from many different parts of our health sector at NMS 2020.

“Opioids can be an effective component of the management of acute and cancer-related pain, but recent evidence shows that for most patients with chronic non-cancer pain, opioids don’t provide clinically important improvement in pain or function compared with placebo. Additionally, opioids carry a significant risk of harms, and so it’s important to raise awareness of the harms associated with opioids and their place in therapy,” said Ms Osman.

“It’s important that any deprescribing efforts are done in close consultation with consumers. It will take a collaborative approach to ensure that there’s a robust process for reducing opioid related harms whilst ensuring patients are receiving adequate pain management she said.

A current national quality improvement campaign by NPS MedicineWise with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health seeks to equip consumers and health professionals with tools and resources to reduce the harms of opioids while ensuring adequate pain management and quality of life for patients with chronic non-cancer pain.

The program has been informed by Choosing Wisely Australia® recommendations from the Faculty of Pain Medicine (FPM) of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

Effective communication is a key component to ensuring patients are active contributors in pain management. A new series of videos were released last week which aim to support effective conversations between health professionals and patients about the use of opioids for the management of chronic non-cancer pain. The videos were developed with funding from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australian Government Department of Health, and in collaboration with Painaustralia Consumer Advisory Group. The videos focus on motivational interviewing techniques, providing examples of interactions between patients and health professionals, and demonstrating how best practice recommendations can be applied to individual patient circumstances.

About the National Medicines Symposium

Hosted by NPS MedicineWise, the annual National Medicines Symposium (NMS) brings together the most influential organisations, individuals and decision makers in the health sector to discuss and debate key issues around quality use of medicines and health technologies, and to encourage collective impact with a focus on the needs of the consumer.

The theme for NMS 2020 is ‘Rising to the medication safety challenge’, in the context of medicines safety recently being named a National Health Priority Area and it also being the focus of the 3rd World Health Organization Global Patient Safety Challenge: Medication Without Harm.

Read more and check out the NMS 2020 program at www.nps.org.au/nms2020


    Media contact

    Matthew Harris, NPS MedicineWise Communications & PR adviser: (02) 8217 9229, 0419 618 365 or [email protected]