Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (13:46): Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. This is a day to remember the many thousands of Australians who have lost their lives to drug overdoses, and the families who remain behind. According to the United Nations our region has a higher than average drug mortality rate. At least three Australians die every day from overdose. According to the Penington Institute, 83 per cent of these deaths involve prescription medications. Over the past decade the use of prescribed opioid painkillers has increased by more than 400 per cent, yet community education programs have not kept pace. Awareness campaigns around the misuse of prescription medicines should receive a similar prioritisation to those on alcohol and illicit drug use and skin cancer prevention.
There is also a strong argument made by those on the front line of this issue for the introduction of a nationwide, real-time monitoring system. Tasmania’s introduction in 2008 of DORA, the Drugs and Poisons Information System Online Remote Access system, has been a great success in tackling that state’s problem with misuse of OxyContin. As the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Medicine group, I support the call from groups like ScriptWise for a nation-wide, real-time monitoring system, and I will be using this International Overdose Awareness Day to write to the Minister for Health and Aged Care to ask her to look at this important issue.