Tuesday 22 August 2017

Heath Ledger's father seeks tighter scrutiny of prescription drugs

Live monitoring of sales and prescriptions is key to identifying addicts, Kim Ledger said.

By Kerri-Ann Roper

Heath Ledger’s father has called for greater monitoring of prescription medicines to tackle the growing addiction pandemic.

Kim Ledger, whose actor son died at 28 after taking an accidental overdose, said it would be the greatest step in alleviating the “world problem”.

ipanews_7c3cefe1-7a18-420b-b2e9-c1239dbe1206_embedded165768469

In the UK, fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers are similar to those from heroin, while in the US the number of deaths are double those of heroin and cocaine combined, according to experts.

“The addiction to (prescription) drugs is a massive problem,” Mr Ledger said at a Los Angeles scholarship fundraiser in his son’s name on Wednesday.

“I think from a government point of view it would be great to see real-time monitoring systems in each country.”

These would allow doctors and pharmacists to spot addicts by having access to live updates on what drugs patients have been handed and when.

“(It would) help doctors understand that the patient coming to them has probably shopped somewhere else and it gives them a little bit of time to prepare for a visitation,” said Mr Ledger, a patron of Australian anti-misuse group ScriptWise.

“At the same time maybe they would be able to counsel that individual and also offer pathways.”

ipanews_7c3cefe1-7a18-420b-b2e9-c1239dbe1206_embedded1881338788

His Brokeback Mountain star son was found dead in his New York apartment in January 2008 from the combined effects of six different prescription drugs.

A report by UK organisation DrugWise in 2015 found that deaths in England and Wales from one opioid painkiller, Tramadol, had risen from one in 1996 to 240 in 2014.

The deaths from all opioid painkillers stood at 757 in 2013, just shy of the figure of 765 for heroin and morphine, it added.

The report shows a “relentless rise” of prescription fatalities in the US with the figure doubling to 16,500 in 2010 compared with that in 2002.

Press Association

Also in this section