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Head of Australian Drug Services Calls on Doctors to Combat Drug Abuse

Sam Biondo claimed that current methods of pain management have become insolvent and suggested that doctors work together in order to curb overprescribing pain meds.

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By Paul Gaita

05/21/14

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The head of a drug and alcohol support services group in Australia has called for significant changes within the medical community in order to combat the rising tide of prescription drug abuse within his own country and abroad.

Sam Biondo, chief executive of the Victoria Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) in Melbourne, Australia, suggested that the current method of pain management for patients, in which a general practitioner is limited largely to opioids as a means of helping individuals, has become insolvent in the wake of the global crisis regarding prescription drug misuse and overdoses. Biondo said that a multidisciplinary model of care, in which doctors, pharmacists, and allied health professionals all work together, rather than independently to monitor a patient’s needs, would eliminate conflicting diagnoses that often result in overprescribing pain medication. “They need to work in a holistic way to deal with the complexities that arise out of people’s pain issues,” Biondo said.

In addition, Biondo suggests that real-time prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) can also be important tools for physicians and other professionals. “[They are] vital, not only in managing the client outcomes, but [also in] ensuring that we’re reducing the number of deaths that are occurring,” he noted. PDMPs, which maintain electronic databases of prescriptions for controlled substances, have been implemented in 48 states, and appear to have had some impact in regard to reducing the sales and consumption of controlled substances, as well as instances of multiple provider episodes, or “doctor shopping.”

However, PDMPs also remain extremely expensive to implement, with startup costs ranging from $450,000 to more than $1.5 million. Meanwhile, research into their overall effectiveness has proven difficult to determine due to the variations in how state health departments, pharmacy boards, and other administrative facilities collect and share data. The monitoring systems also appear to have had a chilling effect on some medical professionals, who have resisted prescribing certain medications in order to avoid targeting by law enforcement agencies, and instead prescribed less effective drugs to patients.

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