The deaths of three men from prescription drugs has prompted the West Australian coroner to examine how doctors and pharmacists supply opioids to patients.
An inquest is being held into the deaths of Adrian Marcus Westlund, 22, Daniel James Hall, 26, and Shayne Andrew Berry, 44, who all died between 2010 and 2012 after visiting several doctors and pharmacists.
In her opening address on Monday, counsel assisting the coroner Kate Ellson said that in 2013, prescription medications contributed to 75 per cent of the 116 recorded fatal overdoses in WA, while illicit drugs contributed to 46.6 per cent.
That same year, benzodiazepines were involved in almost a third of overdose-related deaths and prescription opioids played a role in almost half.
The court heard Mr Hall, who had bipolar disorder, was admitted to hospital several times and treated for self-harming and overdosing on his medications.
After injuring his shoulder twice, Mr Hall became dependent on oxycodone and started to use fentanyl patches.
Mr Hall died in July 2010 when his mother and brother failed to revive him.
The court also heard Mr Berry had stopped using heroin and was not drinking alcohol two years before his death.
But the day before he died, he got two prescriptions for oxycodone from two doctors in Karratha.
On the day he died, Mr Berry's partner took their child for a swim while he slept, but when she returned, she could not revive him.
In 2009, Mr Westlund was admitted to hospital with a suspected overdose and when he recovered, he suffered from memory loss.
He also had unexplained seizures.
Mr Westlund was found in 2011 by his father lying face-down on his bed with blue lips.
The inquest continues.
THE WA CORONER WILL INVESTIGATE:
Daniel James Hall:
- How a doctor could prescribe oxycodone to him when he was a registered drug addict, and whether the OxyContin prescription was excessive
Shayne Andrew Berry:
- How a doctor could prescribe oxycodone to a registered drug addict if they were not his authorised prescriber
Adrian Marcus Westlund:
- Whether the doses of benzodiazepines prescribed to him were appropriate and whether it was appropriate for methadone to be prescribed to him without urinalysis
- Whether information was available that would have enabled him to have been registered as a drug addict earlier than he was
- Whether dispensers and prescribers would benefit from a real-time prescribing system, and whether there is any way for pharmacists to know if a patient is a registered drug addict so they can restrict the supply of certain drugs
- Whether pharmacists should be able to notify a state or Commonwealth agency that someone ought not to receive a controlled drug or prescription-only medicine
- Whether a public awareness campaign is necessary to raise awareness about the risks and unacceptable behaviours associated with pharmaceutical misuse