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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 1303

Senator GUILFOYLE (VICTORIA) - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Health. It relates to the theft of drugs from pharmacies, hospitals and doctors' surgeries. The DirectorGeneral of Health released statistics this month which show a rise in drug robberies and stated that this was causing concern to the Department of Health. I understand that doctors have been asked to refrain from keeping large amounts of drugs on their premises. I ask: Are any requirements placed upon doctors and retail pharmacies with regard to the holding of stocks to minimise the possibilities of thefts of large quantities of narcotics and drugs of dependence?

Senator GREENWOOD -I sought some general information on the question of the theft of drugs because, firstly, there have been some Press statements recently and, secondly, the Director-General of Health recently took up this matter with the Secretary of the Australian Medical Association. I am informed that on 25th August the Director-General advised the Association of the concern expressed by the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence following that Committee's consideration of statistics on drugs stolen in the year 1971. The figures placed before that Committee showed that within Australia in 1971, 888 offences were reported involving the theft of narcotic and other dependence producing drugs; 289 of those offences involved thefts from the cars and surgeries of medical practitioners. That figure, incidentally, is more than 3 times the number of similar offences reported in 1 970.

The emphasis of the Director-General's request was to the medical practitioners to use care in maintaining their supplies of drugs and to ensure that they had no more on hand than was necessary for their reasonable expectation of the use which would be required. In effect, the DirectorGeneral asked them to keep only minimum amounts and to destroy all that was unwanted.I am not aware that any restriction is placed upon the quantity ofdrugs which might be kept by medical practitioners. Having regard to the differing character and requirements of medical practices it would be most difficult to impose such limits. But on that aspect I shall seek further information from the Acting Minister for Health and let the honourable senator know.

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