News Health/Medical Opioid Prescription Trends: A Closer Look
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

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Opioid Prescription Trends: A Closer Look

By Dr. David Lam | April 2, 2024

While the reduction in opioid prescriptions is a positive sign, the bigger question remains: Is dependence truly declining?


Recent changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) aimed at curbing opioid-related harm have led to a decline in opioid prescriptions. However, experts emphasize that more comprehensive strategies are needed to address opioid dependence.

The Numbers

An independent study evaluated the impact of the 2020 opioid revisions. Key changes included:

  • New PBS subsidies for smaller quantities of opioids for acute pain.
  • Authorities required for subsidizing repeat opioid prescriptions for chronic pain.
  • Mandatory second clinician review for long-term opioid use.

The study found an overall 4% decline in oral morphine equivalents (OMEs) dispensed through the PBS. This translates to approximately 9,000 fewer codeine-paracetamol packets or 4,000 fewer tramadol packets annually.

Global Impact

Opioid overuse remains a significant global health issue. The World Health Organization reports that opioids are responsible for 80% of drug-related deaths worldwide.

Room for Improvement

Victorian GP and Medical Educator, Dr. Paul Grinzi, acknowledges the positive trend but emphasizes the need for further action. Australia has made progress, but challenges persist.

Looking Ahead

While PBS changes have prompted prescribers to be more mindful, addressing opioid dependence requires a multifaceted approach. Let's continue the conversation and prioritize evidence-based treatments.

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