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Opioids or morphine-based pain medicines are a high-risk medicine. These medicines have led to 1180 deaths in Victoria over a 10-year period, contributing to an average of 41.3 per cent of total overdose deaths each year.

Hospitals increasingly understand the risks of supplying opioids to consumers when they are discharged. Despite this, less than 5 per cent of Australian hospitals reported having a formal program to manage opioid prescribing. In 2018, the Parliament of Victoria’s Inquiry into Drug Law Reform recommended the roll out of a sector wide stewardship trial for medicines with potential for misuse. 

The Medicines improvement program will work together with Alfred Health and Clinical Excellence Queensland to test an analgesic stewardship (AGS) program in six partner health services. The program will ensure appropriate use and review of opioids and other pain medicines to improve acute pain management and reduce avoidable medication-related harm.

Like other stewardship programs, such as antibiotic or antimicrobial stewardship, an AGS program includes structured approaches to governance, accountability, policy, education, monitoring, and improvement activities.

The program will release an AGS toolkit that will provide factsheets and adaptable resources to support health services beyond the pilot program to introduce elements of an AGS program and support the process of quality improvement. 

We will finish the program on 30 June 2022


  • Reduce the risk of prolonged opioid use and related harm.
  • Decrease the number of opioid-naïve (not already using opioid medicines regularly) surgical patients receiving opioid analgesics on discharge by 20 per cent.
  • Reduce the average quantity of immediate release opioid analgesics supplied on discharge by 20 per cent.
  • Introduce structured approaches to AGS that improve governance, policy, education, monitoring, and transfers of care. 

Lead organisation

Alfred Health


Albury Wodonga Health
Barwon Health
Eastern Health
Northern Health
Peninsula Health
Royal Melbourne Hospital

Page last updated: 29 Mar 2022

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