Department of Health

Key messages

Pharmacotherapy is one of the six treatment streams available for clients receiving alcohol and other drug treatment services in Victoria.

Pharmacotherapy is usually prescribed in the community by general practitioners or nurse practitioners who have been trained and accredited to prescribe. Trained community-based pharmacists usually dispense pharmacotherapy.

Clients can access pharmacotherapy through DirectLine, catchment-based intake providers, other treatment providers and primary care providers.

Specialist pharmacotherapy services are available for people with complex medical, psychiatric or psychological problems.

About pharmacotherapy

‘Pharmacotherapy’ is the term used to describe the use of medication (such as methadone, buprenorphine) to assist in the treatment of opioid addiction.

The Victorian pharmacotherapy system consists of community-based pharmacotherapy providers and specialist pharmacotherapy services. For example, a prescription for methadone may be prescribed by a general practitioner and this drug will be dispensed to the client by a trained pharmacist.

Accessing pharmacotherapy

Catchment-based intake providers support people to access pharmacotherapy by providing referrals to approved pharmacotherapy providers and pharmacists. This involves making direct contact on behalf of the client.

People can also seek pharmacotherapy through primary care providers.

Specialist pharmacotherapy services (SPS)

Specialist pharmacotherapy services (SPS) provide a consultative service to prescribers seeking expert opinion about managing patients with complex psychiatric, social, medical or treatment problems. Prescribers can refer patients by contacting one of the five SPSs in Melbourne.

Victorian Area-Based Pharmacotherapy Networks

In 2014, five area-based pharmacotherapy networks were established throughout Victoria to ensure a more local approach in connecting care, driving best practice and improving pharmacotherapy client outcomes. The three regional Networks (Barwon South West Pharmacotherapy Network, Grampians and Loddon Malleee Pharmacotherapy Network, Gippsland and Hume Pharmacotherapy Network) and the two metropolitan Melbourne Networks (South and Eastern Metropolitan Pharmacotherapy Network and North and West Metropolitan Pharmacotherapy Network) will develop strategic approaches to addressing needs in their Areas, work with other services in the Area to form partnerships to facilitate treatment referral pathways, intervention, ongoing support and wrap around support and mentoring to providers, attract and retain pharmacotherapy providers to relieve pressure to existing services and facilitate access to ongoing training for pharmacotherapy providers.

Further information

For further information about pharmacotherapy including contact details for the Area- Based Pharmacotherapy Networks, the Victorian Pharmacotherapy Policy, and training for providers, please visit the pharmacotherapy resources page.

Reviewed 08 November 2021


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