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O’Connor clueless about medicine in prisons

Jackie Blue MP
National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman
(Pharmacare)

8 October 2006

O’Connor clueless about medicine in prisons

It is clear from answers to parliamentary written questions that Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor has absolutely no idea about pharmaceutical usage in his prisons, says National's Associate Health spokeswoman, Dr Jackie Blue.

"There were huge gaps in the information I received, and what little data was available was basic and disturbing,” says Dr Blue, spokeswoman on Pharmacare issues.

"The annual cost of prescription medicines in prisons has increased four-fold since 2000 – from $344,903 to $1,279,379 in 2006 – with the greatest increase evident over the past three years.

"But efforts to get information about the type of pharmaceuticals used and the pattern of use over these years has hit a brick wall.

"The percentage of penal inmates who use prescription medications has almost doubled, from 18% in 2001 to 32% in 2003.

"It is concerning that of those taking medication, the percentage of women increased from 2.6% in 2001 to 54.5% in 2003, while the percentage of men taking medication decreased from 97.4% in 2001 to 31.8% in 2003.

"The information about the intervening year (2002) and subsequent years (2003, 2004, 2005) was not forthcoming. I suspect it hadn't been collected.

"Damien O'Connor should be ashamed at the paucity of information on prison pharmaceutical use.

"Why has the cost of prescription medications increased four-fold over the past five years? Why are prisoners sicker? What are the main illnesses that are being treated? Why has the proportion of women inmates taking medication increased so dramatically?

"There are many disturbing unanswered questions."

Ends

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