Opioid prescribing in Australian general practice

Christopher M Harrison, Janice Charles, Joan Henderson and Helena Britt
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja12.10168
Published online: 2 April 2012

Opioid use is increasing, and not just for chronic conditions or cancer

Global concern about the prescribing of opioid analgesic medications (particularly oxycodone) for chronic pain is growing. In this Journal in September 2011, Roxburgh and colleagues examined the rise of oxycodone and morphine prescribing and the harm associated with opioid use.1 In the accompanying editorial, Hall and Farrell argued that this suggests that most prescribing of opioids was for chronic non-malignant pain.2 We tested this assertion using general practitioner prescribing data linked to the problem under management, and examined the characteristics of the GPs who prescribed opioids and the patients who received these prescriptions.

  • Family Medicine Research Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


We thank the GP participants in BEACH and all members of the BEACH team. During the data collection years reported here, the BEACH program was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the National Prescribing Service, AstraZeneca Australia, Roche Products, Janssen-Cilag, Merck Sharp and Dohme (Australia), Pfizer Australia, Sanofi-Aventis Australia, Abbott Australasia, Wyeth Australia, CSL Limited, GlaxoSmithKline Australia, Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Office of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations).

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Roxburgh A, Bruno R, Larance B, et al. Prescription of opioid analgesics and related harms in Australia. Med J Aust 2011; 195: 280-284. <MJA full text>
  • 2. Hall WD, Farrell MP. Minimising the misuse of oxycodone and other pharmaceutical opioids in Australia [editorial]. Med J Aust 2011; 195: 248-249. <MJA full text>
  • 3. Britt H, Miller G, Charles J, et al. General practice activity in Australia 2010–11. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2011. (accessed Mar 2012).
  • 4. Britt H, Miller GC, Charles J, et al. A decade of Australian general practice activity 2001–02 to 2010–11. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2011. (accessed Mar 2012).
  • 5. World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology. Anatomical therapeutic chemical (ATC) classification index with defined daily doses (DDDs). Oslo: WHO, 2009.
  • 6. Harrison CM, Britt HC, Charles J. Sex of the GP — 20 years on. Med J Aust 2011; 195: 192-196. <MJA full text>
  • 7. O’Halloran J, Miller GC, Britt H. Defining chronic conditions for primary care with ICPC-2. Fam Pract 2004; 21: 381-386.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.