Western Victoria PHN’s (WVPHN) pharmacotherapy program is a valuable information and support resource for health professionals.

Please note: the WVPHN pharmacotherapy program supports the Barwon-South Western pharmacotherapy area-based network and is only available in the Geelong Otway and Great South Coast regions. For services in Ballarat Goldfields and Wimmera Grampians regions, contact Orticare

Role of the pharmacotherapy network

The Barwon-South Western pharmacotherapy network is one of five such networks in Victoria. These networks aim to ensure integrated, coordinated and accessible pharmacotherapy systems are available to people addicted to opioids. The networks provide support, education and information for general practice staff, pharmacists, and allied health professionals.

WVPHN’s pharmacotherapy network aims to:

  • Drive service system reform to develop a strong and sustainable community Opioid replacement therapy (ORT) workforce that is supported by an adaptive, responsive and outcome focused opioid management support.
  • Enhance service integration, coordination, referral pathways and collaboration between community based, specialist ORT providers and the broader Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) sector.
  • Reduce the vulnerability of the community-based ORT system by adopting and maintaining a whole of system approach, linked to AOD treatment sector reform.

Medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence

Medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence (MATOD) – also known as Opioid replacement therapy (ORT) – is widely used as an effective treatment for opioid dependence.

MATOD aims to reduce the health, social and economic harms caused by dependence on both illicit and licit drugs. ORT is used as part of a comprehensive treatment program including counselling, as well as, physical and mental health monitoring and support.

Community-based delivery of pharmacotherapy is supported through:

  • Specialist Pharmacotherapy Services (e.g. Addiction Medicine Specialist services)
  • The Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service (DACAS)
  • The Pharmacotherapy, Advocacy, Mediation and Support Service (PAMS)
  • Training in pharmacotherapy for prescribers and pharmacists.

Opioid replacement therapy: methadone and buprenorphine

Methadone and buprenorphine are the most widely and effectively used opioid replacement therapies substitution treatments for opioid dependence.

They are used in long-term maintenance programs to reduce harms associated with dependent drug use and to improve the person’s quality of life. They are also used for easing discomfort from opioid withdrawal.

There is evidence that longer duration of ORT maintenance treatment is associated with reducing the individual and social harms associated with opioid dependence.

Methadone treatment has been shown to significantly reduce risk of death from overdose. The effectiveness of methadone maintenance programs in reducing HIV infections is also well-demonstrated.

Incorporating naloxone into practice

The Naloxone Community Overdose Prevention and Education (COPE) program actively encourages health professionals to routinely screen patients to identify those who are at high risk of opioid overdose.

COPE recommends routine screening for overdose risk be incorporated into care planning processes for individuals being prescribed opioids for conditions such as chronic pain and those on opioid pharmacotherapies. Any patient identified as at high risk for opioid overdose should be offered a naloxone prescription. The aim is to train and provide access to Naloxone to any patient prescribed high-risk opioids.

For more information about naloxone prescribing and access to training for patients:

Or contact WVPHN Program Lead Pharmacotherapy and AOD, Gabrielle Watt

  • Tel: 03 5564 5815.

ORT prescribing

GPs can prescribe for up to five buprenorphine patients without having to undergo training.

For advice on the key regulatory and policy requirements for prescribing buprenorphine/naloxone, refer to the Department of Health guide.

If you want more information on becoming a prescriber or undergoing training, please contact WVPHN via the details below.

ORT dispensing

Pharmacies and pharmacists can dispense ORT but will need permission to supply ORT treatment to eligible clients in Victoria.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (Victorian Branch) provides ORT training for pharmacists.

If you want more information on becoming a dispenser of ORT or undergoing training, please contact WVPHN via the details below.

Pharmacotherapy information and resources

Clinical support and advice

Addiction Medicine Specialists

The AMS service provides access to an Addiction Medicine Specialist. The AMS service helps local ORT providers enhance treatment skills and better manage more complex patients.

Training and mentoring

Available training and support include:

  • GP, pharmacist and outreach clinical advisors
  • Mentoring by experienced GP prescribers
  • Pharmacist mentoring
  • Communities of practice for GPs and allied health staff
  • Shared care model
  • Ongoing CPD addressing dependence and chronic pain topics

More information

For services in the Geelong Otway and Great South Coast regions, contact WVPHN’s Pharmacotherapy Team

  • Gabrielle Watt, Program Lead Pharmacotherapy and AOD,
    • Tel: 03 5564 5815
  • Amy Collins, Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Tel: 03 5564 5888

For services in Ballarat Goldfields and Wimmera Grampians regions, contact

  • Pauline Molloy, Manager Pharmacotherapy Network at Orticare or Tel: 03 5338 9142
Last modified: 30 October, 2019