Tougher fentanyl rules likely


INCIDENTS such as three recent fatal overdoses on the Border caused by the painkiller drug fentanyl could lead to tougher rules.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner yesterday said she had been briefed on the Border overdoses.

She said it was “concerning” when anybody died, and especially so when it appeared to be from a drug overdose.

Wodonga police investigated two fatal fentanyl overdoses in December, while Albury paramedics were called to another three months ago.

Ms Skinner said she could not comment on the Border deaths, given they were still subject to inquests.

But she said NSW took the issue of fentanyl seriously.

“A framework is being developed by NSW Health, with all of the other states coming on board,” she said.

“Some of the things in that framework would be about looking at prescribers and making sure they understand their obligations — that they alert patients and then monitor that.

“In the past, some of those doctors have been referred to the medical board and have been banned from prescribing those substances.”

Ms Skinner said the strategy, which was almost formulated, also involved the pharmacies.

She said when completed, it would go to a standing council of the nation’s health ministers.

“I happen to be the chair as of this year,” she said.

Ms Skinner said one report she had read showed there was a spike in cases in rural and regional areas, perhaps caused by a lack of addicts’ access to heroin.

“At the other end of the scale, there are older patients who need to have their use of patches more closely monitored,” she said.

“It’s not a simple issue and quite a substantial series of measures in this framework will be taken to the standing council.”

Ms Skinner said the overdoses were not a situation unique to the Border, “although there have been more here than other places”.

“It’s certainly enough to make me worried, particularly about the monitoring on where people are getting fentanyl.”

NSW Health investigated claims of inappropriate prescribing of fentanyl after 10 people died in Albury-Wodonga in 2011-12.

That led to three practitioners being banned from prescribing fentanyl patches.