Supporting GPs in improving opioid replacement therapy

23 August, 2016

The treatment of opioid dependence is a challenge faced by many general practitioners and Eastern Melbourne PHN (EMPHN) is committed to supporting GPs in this role.

EMPHN’s Quality Use of Medicine’s (QUM) Program supports GPs with training and information on the prescribing of opioid replacement therapies, such as opioids and benzodiazepines.

In mid-July, the QUM Program facilitated an active learning module titled, Opioids and Benzos: essential prescribing safeguards, aimed at supporting GPs in accountable prescribing of opioids and benzodiazepines. This event was supported by the Area 4 Pharmacotherapy Network and North West Melbourne Pharmacotherapy Network.

"As a GP, I found treatment of opioid dependence with replacement therapy extremely rewarding: it not only reduced my patients’ mortality risk by nearly 400%.”

“I watched patients turn their lives around and repair important family relationships, get formal education and jobs," Dr Alexander said.

EMPHN presenters introduced GPs to medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence and the regulatory requirements. EMPHN staff also showed GPs how they could use the HealthPathways Melbourne online tool for accessing best-practice management, local referral options and resources for opioid replacement therapy.

Addiction medicine specialist, Dr Matthew Frei explored the clinical risks of prescribing benzodiazepines and their association of with multi-drug morbidity and mortality. Dr Frei provided realistic strategies and safeguards for both GPs and patients and elicited thoughtful discussion from the audience.

Communicating expectations and risks of opioid replacement therapy with patients is another important part of the role of GPs in pharmacotherapy. Dr Tamsin Short, clinical psychologist with Access Health and Community, introduced the locally developed consumer resource “A Bitter Pill” to assist GPs to communicate with patients.

For more information about the Quality Use of Medicines Program, contact Christine Bellamy via and for pharmacotherapy support, contact Jana Dostal via