Specially trained GPs will be on hand to provide back-up for doctors managing patients on prescription drugs as Victoria's real-time script monitoring system is rolled out.

The SafeScript system went live in the Western Victoria PHN region last week, with the rest of the state to follow in April next year, making Victoria the first mainland state to crack down on doctor shopping and unsafe prescription-drug use with constant digital surveillance.

Dr Keri Alexander, an addiction medicine specialist and former GP, said there had been huge interest from GPs wanting to train for the support service.

“We are hoping that the roles of these GP Safescript Clinical Advisors will have a few different aspects, to try to build capacity among GPs in their areas,” Dr Alexander said.

“One of their roles will be to liaise with the PHNs and the pharmacotherapy area-based networks and be involved in delivering training, such as workshops and seminars, for GPs about utilising SafeScript and clinical management to improve patient care and patient safety.”

Dr Alexander is director of addictions training at Turning Point, a Melbourne treatment centre, which has been recruiting GPs for the advisory service.

Most patients who came to attention through SafeScript were likely to be suffering from chronic pain, not necessarily people who had already formed an addiction to prescription drugs, she said.

The state’s $29.5 million Safescript system is expected to capture 4.5 million prescriptions per year, keeping track of all dispensing and prescriptions for restricted drugs by doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

Two GPs from each of the state’s six PHNs are being selected for training, which will include evidence-based prescribing, pain management, mental health and non-drug treatment options.

The first two GP clinical advisors for SafeScript will take up their new role in western Victoria next month.

GPs will be able to access support via the existing state-run Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service (DACAS), which offers free consulting for health and welfare professionals, via telephone or through the service’s website.

They could request a consultation with a trained GP advisor in their area, who would be equipped with local knowledge, or a DACAS addiction medicine specialist, Dr Alexander said.

Callers to the hotline service, which is active 24-7, would usually get a response within an hour, she added.

“We are trying to encourage any doctor in Victoria to use DACAS to have a conversation over the phone with an addiction specialist about a clinical situation,” she said.

Safescript will become mandatory in Victoria after an introductory 18-month period, in an effort to halt escalating harm and overdoses linked to prescription drugs.

Victoria recorded more than 400 deaths from pharmaceutical drugs last year.

GPs will be able contact the SafeScript GP Clinical Advisory Service by visiting the DACAS website or calling 1800 812 804.

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