1st August 2018

MELBOURNE: With one in three Australians over the age of 65 suffering from chronic pain, The Australian Patients Association is calling for coordinators trained in pain management to be a standard feature of primary care medical practices. The role would coordinate care in a highly complex medical system in which patients struggle with medication compliance, access to specialists, and financial management.

To address confusion around medication misuse The Australian Patients Association is holding a forum exploring the impact of prescription medications entitled Medication Myths, Mistakes and Misuse, at Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday 5th August 2018.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Drug Strategy Household survey 2016 found that 2.5 million (or 12.8%) people in Australia misused a pharmaceutical drug at some point in their lifetime. 1 in 20 (4.8%) Australians misused a pharmaceutical in the last 12 months with pain-killers/analgesics and opioids the most commonly misused class of pharmaceutical (3.6%)1.

Pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical assistance. One in five Australians live with chronic pain and the prevalence of chronic pain is projected to increase as Australia’s population ages – from around 3.2 million in 2007 to 5 million by 20502.

Thirty-eight-year-old Alana Jordan is a Melbourne-based manager who has coped with chronic pain since the age of 16. Despite years of experience and a high level of health literacy, she struggles through the existing delivery care model.

“Chronic pain is invisible for most people – you don’t look sick! You have to coordinate with a lot of Specialists: Neurologists; Pain; Rehabilitation; Physiotherapists; Psychologists; Pharmacists; and General Practitioners.  A lack of coordinated services and prohibitive healthcare costs for patients suffering complex or rare illnesses, results in patients advocating and coordinating their own healthcare.  These issues lead to many patients using online forums to communicate and discuss issues. There is a clear lack of knowledge in the community about chronic pain and complex rare illnesses, treatment options, medication side-effects and potential drug interactions.

Medically trained, trusted advisors/advocates to coordinate the patients journey is desperately needed, along with affordable integrated pain management services 24/7 to improve the quality of life for sufferers. The impact to society is far reaching both economically and psychology, as every patient has carers, family and friends taking on the roles that a modern democratic healthcare system should be providing.”

The Australian Patients Association believes the complexity of the day to day management means that patients should be able to access an advocate to assist in treatment.

National Strategy Director of the Australian Patients Association, Michael Riley says,

“Chronic pain is a complex condition marked by unpredictable and potentially debilitating flare-ups. This can wreak havoc on a person’s ability to sleep, work, care for their families and has a strong association with mental illness, including depression. Reponses to pain medication vary drastically between individuals. Many patients have to manage their care directly which can be suboptimal.

“GP clinics are accessible locations for advanced practice nurses trained specifically in pain cases who can negotiate, manage and coordinate between specialists, and advise patients on medication and track results. They would not take the role of a pain specialist but they would be in a patient’s corner providing support.”

The Australian Patients Association is dedicated to championing and protecting the rights and interests of patients and improving overall patient care and health outcomes. The forum will explore appropriate use of prescription medications, discuss pain management and how patients, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors and pharmacists can work together to educate the public on the appropriate use of medications and harm prevention strategies.

Medication: Myths, Mistakes and Misuse, Sunday August 5th, 2018, 2pm-4pm, Melbourne Town Hall Speakers at the Public Forum include: Dr Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer Pfizer; Pharmacy Guild Victorian President Anthony Tassone and Melbourne GP, Dr George Dade

Australian Patients Association

The Australian Patients Association works to champion and protect the rights and interests of patients and improve patient care and health outcomes.



  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016: detailed findings. Drug Statistics series no. 31. Cat. no. PHE 214. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. MBF Foundation (2007) The high price of pain: the economic impact of persistent pain in Australia – Pain Management Research Institute, University of Sydney.

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