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Elderly Forced To Sell Prescription Drugs To Make Ends Meet, Rural Doctors Warn

Elderly people in rural areas have in some cases been pressured to sell chronic pain medications for $20 per pill.

13/07/2017 3:01 PM AEST | Updated 13/07/2017 3:04 PM AEST
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Some chronic pain medications are being sold for $20 per pill, Dr Ewen McPhee said.

Reports elderly Australians are having to sell prescription medications to make ends meet has prompted calls for a national real time monitoring system for prescription drugs.

The Rural Doctors Association says elderly people in regional areas are either on-selling prescription drugs to help pay their living expenses, or being intimidated into supplying the medication illegally.

President Dr Ewen McPhee told HuffPost Australia elderly people in rural areas have in some cases been pressured to sell chronic pain medications for $20 per pill.

"Some of my patients today were telling me how they were approached to sell their drugs," he said.

"It's the tip of the iceberg."

George Frey / Reuters
A bottle of prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills. 800 Australians die each year from prescription drug misuse.

Describing the problem as complex, McPhee said issues spanning from a lack of pain management clinics in rural areas to financial pressures are contributing to people trying to purchase or having to sell chronic pain medications -- such as OxyContin and Endone -- on the sly.

It's also leading to home break-ins and some community members feeling pressured to sell their drugs.

On the ground we see these things every day.Dr Ewen McPhee

"More people die from prescription drug misuse than from illegal ones."

He said the a national real time monitoring program for prescription drugs is needed across the country. Some states still rely on paper prescriptions, while Tasmania is currently the only state with a real time system.

Mildura pharmacist, Eric Oguzkaya, told the ABC elderly customers tended to on-sell drugs more than professionals suspected.

"The dealers start with the charm and they start with trying to be friendly," he said, telling the ABC he has also heard reports of elderly people being intercepted and intimidated by dealers outside doctors' surgeries and pharmacies.

As many as 800 Australians die every year from prescription drug misuse.

The Australian Medical Association told the HuffPost Australia it backed calls for a national real time prescription drug monitoring program.

AMA vice president Tony Bartone told the HuffPost Australia that while various states do have trials for the program, the wait has been "interminable".

"In the meantime people keep succumbing to the effects (of prescription drug misuse), he said.

"That could be significantly reduced by a real time monitoring program.

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