Nhill's Margaret Millington continues prescription pharmaceuticals monitoring system fight at inquest

IN HIS MEMORY: Horsham’s Sallie Millington and her mother Margaret Millington of Nhill, pictured in 2012, are lobbying for a real-time monitoring system to prevent people addicted to prescription medication from ‘doctor shopping’. Sallie’s brother and Margaret’s son, Simon, died after a prescription drug overdose in February, 
2010. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

IN HIS MEMORY: Horsham’s Sallie Millington and her mother Margaret Millington of Nhill, pictured in 2012, are lobbying for a real-time monitoring system to prevent people addicted to prescription medication from ‘doctor shopping’. Sallie’s brother and Margaret’s son, Simon, died after a prescription drug overdose in February, 2010. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

NHILL’S Margaret Millington will continue her fight for the real-time monitoring of prescription pharmaceuticals at a coronial inquest in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Mrs Millington has been lobbying the state and federal governments to change how pharmaceuticals are prescribed, controlled and dispensed for the past seven years.

Her son Simon died of a prescription drug overdose in 2010. He became addicted to oxycodone after he was seriously injured in a single-car crash in 1994.

Mrs Millington said the family’s pleas to doctors to stop administering prescription drugs were ignored by many. 

“That’s why my husband John and I addressed a parliamentary inquiry into the use and misuse of drugs in 2007,” she said.

“We were worried that it was only a matter of time before Simon died of an overdose.”

Mrs Millington said the couple suggested a nation-wide database. 

“We were amazed there wasn’t already a system in place,” she said. 

“We thought it would be a good idea because it would keep a record of what medication a person was being prescribed and stop ‘doctor shopping’.

“We wanted to save other families from going through the same thing.”

Mrs Millington said Tuesday's inquest was a result of lobbying from a wide range of people, including coroners, doctors, health care workers, police, ambulance officers and family members affected by prescription drug overdoses and addiction.

“We’ve all been trying to get a real-time monitoring system implemented for so long,” she said.

“We wanted to save other families from going through the same thing.” - Margaret Millington

Last year, the State Government invited the Millingtons to contribute to a study investigating whether a real-life monitoring system was a viable business option for Victoria.

“We didn’t hear anything back after that,” Mrs Millington said. 

“Regardless of continuing questioning of relevant departments, it all just fell into a black hole.”

Mrs Millington, who is a member of the Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce, said further lobbying saw the State Government attribute delays to the Federal Government and vice versa.

“It was like a ping-pong match, backwards and forwards, with no-one able to say what was going to happen,” she said.

The inquest by State Coroner Judge Ian Grey will determine the Victorian Health Department’s position on the need for real-time monitoring. 

It will also consider progress towards implementing a system and alternatives to the proposed Electronic Reporting and Recording of Controlled Drugs. 

Mrs Millington said the issue was highlighted last week when Kim Ledger – father of late Australian actor Heath Ledger – appeared on Channel 7’s The Morning Show to comment about the World Health Organisation’s latest report about legal and illegal drug use around the world. 

It has been six years since his son died of a prescription drug overdose.  

Mr Ledger is also an advocate for real-time monitoring and education.

Mrs Millington said she hoped the inquest would bring change.

“Overdoses of prescription medication is on par with the road toll,” she said. 

“No-one is out on a witch hunt, but if nothing changes the abuse and misuse of pharmaceuticals will continue and our loved ones will continue to die.”

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