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OBTAINING INFORMATION

ABOUT
DRUG-SEEKING PATIENTS

This summary is prepared by the Drugs and Poisons Regulation Group (DPRG) to assist medical practitioners
who wish to seek information and/or advice about suspected drug-seeking patients. The summary has been
prepared following consultation with officers from Medicare Australia (formerly HIC).

At Any Time
Medicare Australia now operates the Prescription Shopping Information Service, 24 hours a day and
7 days a week. However, to obtain information from the service, a medical practitioner must first
obtain an individual Access Number, by forwarding the appropriate Registration Form to Medicare
Australia (see bottom of page 2 for website)
Phone the information service 1800 631 181 (free call).
Quote your full name, date of birth and Access Number.
Supply the patient’s full name, Medicare number and date of birth.
Medicare Australia will be able to inform you whether the patient has been identified under
the criteria* of the Prescription Shopping Project / Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
*The criteria relate to a person having obtained more than a specified number of PBS items and/or having
obtained PBS items from six or more prescribers (excluding specialists) in a 3-month period.

Note: Some drug-dependent (or other drug-seeking) persons may not be identified because the
Medicare Australia information service:
Relates only to PBS items - not including (many) less-expensive medications for which there
is no co-payment unless patients hold entitlement cards.
Does not relate to “private” prescriptions, for which there is no co-payment.
Does not include PBS items that have been supplied but have yet to be claimed by the
pharmacist and/or processed by Medicare Australia.
Does not relate to the provision of methadone or buprenorphine to opiate-dependent
patients.

What Next?
Where there is reason to believe a person is a drug-dependent person, a medical practitioner
must notify the Department of Human Service (DHS) Drugs and Poisons Regulation Group (DPRG)
in the prescribed form.
This is essential because legislation that governs the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme strictly limits
the information that can be released and DHS does not have access to PBS information.
Note: Notification of a drug-dependent person is a lawful requirement, which provides important
information for the DPRG. This data enables DPRG Officers to assist prescribers who might seek
advice or apply for a permit to treat a person. Copies of the Notification Form (DP1) can be
obtained from the DPRG website www.health.vic.gov.au/dpu

Department of Human Services – Prepared May 2006


More Information?
If a patient is willing to sign a Voluntary Information Release Form, a prescriber will be able to
obtain some retrospective, quantitative information from Medicare Australia. This course of action is
strongly recommended (by DPRG) if a prescriber proposes to continue treating a person who has
been identified by the Prescription Shopping Information Service.
Medical practitioners should remember that they can also telephone the DPRG Help Line on 1300
364 545 (select option 2), between 9.00 am and 4.30 pm Monday to Friday, to discuss their
concerns or to seek information about specific patients.
The DPRG holds contact details of prescribers who hold permits to treat patients with Schedule 8
poisons, including patients receiving methadone or buprenorphine to treat opiate-dependence. The
DPRG also has information of many aliases that have reportedly been used by drug-seeking patients
and details of forged prescription reports. Information held by the DPRG is not limited to drugs that are
PBS items.
Note: The collection, storage and disclosure of information by the DPRG are governed by legislation including the
Health Records Act, 2001. Information held by the DPRG about any patient will only be released to a prescriber
who possesses a legitimate need to access that information in the treatment of their patient.

To Prescribe (or not)?


Only the medical practitioner can decide whether (or not) to prescribe a drug of dependence for a
person; DPRG and Medicare Australia can only provide information or advice that might assist the
medical practitioner in reaching a decision.
Having sought information and/or advice from DPRG, the medical practitioner is encouraged to consider
the following points:
A patient with a valid therapeutic need for drugs of dependence should have a principal
medical practitioner managing or attempting to manage the patient’s medication regime.
Concurrent prescribing by other medical practitioners may be detrimental to the
patient.
The problem of drug-dependence is not restricted to illicit drug users.
The fact that a person has a demonstrable therapeutic need for a drug of dependence does
not preclude the possibility that the person is drug-dependent.
Drug-seeking activities are not limited to drug-dependent persons; some people have been
found to be involved in extensive drug-seeking activities to obtain drugs for subsequent re-
sale. Stimulants, anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines, narcotic analgesics and many other
drugs are often sought for unlawful diversion.
The success of “drug-seeking” activity is often facilitated by the fact that many GP’s prescribe
the maximum PBS quantity when consulted by patients who claim that their “regular
prescriber” is not available and present themselves at a time when it is difficult to contact the
regular prescriber or the DPRG.
Please be aware that you are NOT obliged to prescribe the maximum PBS quantity and
that doing so may be detrimental – especially when the patient’s principal prescriber is
unaware of the additional medication.

Key Contact Details


• The Prescription Shopping Information Service Registration Form (to obtain an Access
Number) and the Voluntary Agreement for PBS Information Form may be located, at the
Medicare Australia website (www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/providers) in the section for
Programs & Services, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
• To obtain clinical advice from specialist consultants, Health Professionals (only) may phone
the Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service (DACAS) on 9416 3611 (metro) 1800 812
804 (rural)
• For 24-hour confidential drug and alcohol counselling and treatment information, patients,
family or health professionals may phone Direct Line - 1800 888 236
• Summaries of Victorian legislative requirements for medical practitioners plus notification forms
and permit application forms are available at www.health.vic.gov.au/dpu

For further information

Department of Human Services (DHS)


Drugs and Poisons Regulation Group,
GPO Box 4057,
Melbourne 3001

Tel: 1300 364 545


Fax: 1300 360 830
Web: www.health.vic.gov.au/dpu