Opioid treatment receives $377m funding increase

Matt Woodley

11/05/2023 4:37:31 PM

The measure, included in this week’s Federal Budget, will ‘save lives’, according to the RACGP President.

Vials of naloxone
The funding will go towards increasing access to the PBS Opioid Dependence Treatment Program.

Around 50,000 Australians with opioid dependency will soon have funded support to access treatment via their local pharmacy, following a $377.3 million Federal Government investment.
The funding, to be spread over four years, will go towards increasing access to the PBS Opioid Dependence Treatment Program, which funds the cost of buprenorphine, buprenorphine with naloxone and methadone supplied as pharmaceutical benefits.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers also announced that $33.6 million will be dedicated to extending existing alcohol and other drug programs in the community such as the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services Maintenance Program.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said the investment represents a positive step forward.
‘Alcohol and other drug use is a health issue,’ she said. ‘More must be done to ensure all people, irrespective of postcode or income, can access the help they need when they need it to address substance use issues.
‘I applaud the Government for making this vital investment that will save lives across Australia.’
Dr Higgins also noted that the RACGP is supportive of increased access to opioid dependency therapy through pharmacy, and said GPs and community pharmacists should work together to ensure people with opioid dependency can access help.
Meanwhile, Dr Hester Wilson, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Addiction Medicine, said the new investments could not come at more important time.
‘It’s great news the Government has heeded the RACGP’s calls and given the lifesaving Opioid Dependence Treatment Program a much needed boost,’ she said.
‘A recent report from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre found that there were 1788 drug-induced deaths Australia-wide in 2021 alone, which is the equivalent of five drug-induced deaths every day.
‘One of the major barriers holding back people from getting the help they need is cost. As reported on recently, medications on the opioid treatment program require patients to pay a private pharmacy dispensing fee of between $5–15 a day.
‘That is a sum that many people with opioid dependency at risk of overdose simply can’t afford. So, this investment will have a profound impact for people who need a helping hand to turn their lives around.’  
And while she has welcomed the new measures, Dr Wilson says the job is far from done.
‘Let’s use this to gain momentum and go even further in the years ahead,’ she said.
‘Treatment services are out of the reach for many people so more must be done to ensure that people can access the help they need in communities nationwide.’
Dr Wilson pointed to the lack of an illicit drugs diversionary program in New South Wales and the expansion of pill testing outside of the ACT and the Queensland, as well as more medically supervised injecting facilities as short-term changes that could be made to improve outcomes.
‘On top of that, we must do more to spread awareness about naloxone – a drug that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose and save someone’s life,’ she said.
‘Not enough people know that naloxone is now available via an intranasal spray and that you don’t need a prescription.
‘It’s also completely free under the Take Home Naloxone Program at locations including pharmacies and needle and syringe programs. Let’s get this drug into the hands of people with opioid dependency as well as their loved ones, because at the end of the day every life matters.’
Log in below to join the conversation.

alcohol and other drugs Federal Budget naloxone opioid opioid dependence treatment

newsGP weekly poll What areas of healthcare were you hoping would get more funding in this year's Federal Budget?

newsGP weekly poll What areas of healthcare were you hoping would get more funding in this year's Federal Budget?



Login to comment