March 1, 2019

What is SafeScript and why do we need it?

what is safe script

As Victoria prepares for the state-wide implementation of SafeScript, a real-time prescription monitoring system, we look at the system, why it is needed and how it will work.

The rollout, which comes in the wake of the Victorian Government’s successful trial of SafeScript last October in the Western Victoria Primary Health Network, will see the system introduced more broadly in early 2019. It will allow medical professionals to record prescriptions for some high-risk medicines1 to minimise potential harms.

What is real-time prescription monitoring?

Real-time prescription monitoring systems, such as SafeScript, alert prescribing doctors and pharmacists when a patient has previously been prescribed a high-risk drug.1 For example, if a doctor prescribes a medication for a patient, an alert will pop up on their screen to notify them of the patient’s history of using that drug.

This alert will not prevent the doctor from prescribing medication, but it will provide context for that prescription and the opportunity to reduce potential risks and better manage the individual’s drug use.

Once the person takes their script to a pharmacy, the pharmacist will also be alerted to the additional script. This creates another point at which risks can be identified, discussed and managed. The pharmacist will still be able to dispense the medication and this will also be recorded as part of the real-time monitoring system.

Why do we need real-time prescription monitoring?

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that there has been a significant increase in drug-induced deaths due to prescription medication misuse.

In 2016, approximately 1,808 drug-induced deaths were registered – the highest number in the last 20 years. This increase can be largely attributed to two common and regularly prescribed medications: benzodiazepines and opioids.2

A drug-induced death is defined as being directly attributable to drug use, for example if a person overdoses on a drug. A drug-related death is one where drugs played a contributing factor, for example if a person drives under the influence of a drug resulting in a fatal accident.2

The people most likely to die a drug-induced death in 2016 were middle-aged men living outside a capital city who were most likely using multiple pharmaceutical drugs at the same time. Their death was most likely accidental.2

Benzodiazepines and opioids have potential side effects such as risk of dependence, poor concentration, mental cloudiness and impacts on bodily function such as constipation and reduced sex drive.3 Given the large-scale impact of these drugs in the recent past, it is important for communities to be aware of the risks and benefits of these addictive medications.

SafeScript will play a key part in providing information to patients, as well as guiding practitioners to prevent the potential long-term harms of misuse.

Can I opt out?

SafeScript is computer software that records prescriptions for certain high-risk medications. This data is captured in real-time and sent to a central database. This process is entirely separate from My Health Record and is not an opt-out system. What this means is that SafeScript will be implemented across the state of Victoria regardless of individual willingness to participate.

More information

Victorian Department of Health – About SafeScript

DrugInfo – 1300 85 85 84 or

  1. Victorian Department of Health (2018) About SafeScript, viewed 15 Feb 2019.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) Drug-induced deaths in Australia: A changing story, viewed 15 Feb 2019.
  3. Brands B, Sproule B & Marshman J. (eds) (1998) Drugs & Drug Abuse (3rd ed.) Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.