Tuesday 16 May, 2006

Prescription shopping information service

Posted in Drugs & Alcohol, Emergency Dept., General Practice, Michael Tam, Resources at 15:26 by Michael Tam

Original article by: Michael Tam :: Printer friendly

Registration Form

Complete and fax to (02) 6124 7820.

Once registered available 24/7 by calling 1800 631 181

There used to be a great service to doctors, GPs in particular, called the “Doctor Shopping Hotline”. You could ring up to see if a particular patient had been “doctor shopping”, i.e., seeing multiple practitioners to obtain presciptions for medications (usually opiates and benzodiazepines). However, this service was scrapped due to (misguided) concerns about privacy and issues with funding.

However, Medicare Australia (what is now the HIC) has reinstated a new program, the “Prescription shopping service” which by large has a similar role but a somewhat expanded scope. Rather than simply focussing on drugs of addition, it looks more generically at people who “obtain medicine in excess of medical need”, though why someone would want to stockpile antihypertensives or antibiotics I do not know.

Unfortunately, to access this service, you have to jump through a few hoops.

Step 1

Download the registration form, complete it and then fax it to the Medicare Australia number: (02) 6124 7820.

Step 2

Wait for Medicare Australia to suppy you with an “access number”.

Step 3

Once registered, you can call the service on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 631 181. You need to have your “access number” on hand.

At this time, you will have to call the access the service but apparently Medicare Australia is thinking about an on-line system. You can both get information over the phone about your patient and also have a “summary report” faxed over.

Click here for a sample report.

Reference links

(1) Medicare Australia: Prescription Shopping Project

(2) Medicare Australia: Prescription Shopping Project FAQ

Last updated: Michael Tam (17 November 2006)


  1. Michael Tam said,

    The usefulness of this this service cannot be overstated. I was (somewhat) surprised when a little old lady turned out to have had over 90 scripts of oxycodone SR from 11 prescribers over a 3 month period. On the other hand, if a patient doesn’t have a file with Medicare Australia, it increases your confidence that they are not doctor shopping.

  2. Florence said,

    Hi Michael,
    It’s great you’re spreading the word about this prescription shopping service. I’m doing drug and alchohol term in Vinnies now and only heard about it recently from my boss. I rang up to register about 1 month ago, but I’m still waiting for my access number. How long did it take you to get it?
    I’ve had a couple of patients come into hospital with possible benzo withdrawal cos he was blacklisted due to doctor shopping. I suspect this type of presentation to casualty will be on the rise as more people get blacklisted. But of course, there’s always the black market in the streets…

  3. Michael Tam said,

    I got my access number within days.

    I would send it in again.

    However, in truth I have never once been asked my number. Usually they ask for my prescriber number and a personal detail on the original form.


  4. Kit said,

    Hi Michael,
    This is indeed a trap for young players. I believe that in my brief 6 months in General Practice I have only had 2 shoppers. They wre both nice middle aged ladies, both new to the practice. The first one had the grace only to see me. The second I became suspicious of when she saw all the other female GPs in the practice after me, also for scripts…but she said that she was new to the area and had recently been referred to the pain management clinic. Both had convincing stories.
    And as good as gold…called the prescription shopping services proved quite an eye opener. Did not realise that oxcontin can be gobbled down so quickly…

  5. Michael Tam said,

    Hi Kit.

    “Did not realise that OxyContin can be gobbled down so quickly…”

    It can’t.

    One of my ladies would have been taking lethal doses of oxycodone if it were all for her own use. Considering that many people come without any evidence of sedation or significant withdrawal, the chances of at least some portion of the oxycodone being “diverted” (i.e., sold on the black market) is very high.


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