National News

Top doctors group backs pill testing trial

Sufficient evidence exists to support pill testing trials, a prominent group of doctors has told state and territory leaders.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which represents more than 17,000 physicians and paediatricians, has sent an open letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her counterparts urging them to follow the lead of the ACT.

"The RACP's experts in addiction medicine and public health medicine believe the evidence currently available justifies the introduction of carefully designed pill testing trials in Australia," Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said on Friday.

"Ideally, we would all like young people and the wider public not to use drugs illicitly, however, the reality is that they do in large numbers and the moral message to abstain from taking drugs is not getting through."

They now join the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who are also urging governments to adopt pill testing.

Five people have died after taking drugs at music festivals in NSW alone since September.

Ms Berejiklian has consistently rejected calls to introduce pill testing, despite emotional pleas from the families of some of those who have died.

She believes there is not enough evidence to show it can save lives.

But the RACP says evidence to date shows that existing policies at festivals to discourage drug-taking, including heavy police presence, sniffer dogs and searches, are not effective.

Dr Lloyd-Jones, an addiction specialist, wants pill testing to be trialled in purpose-designed facilities by qualified technical specialists and be accompanied by appropriate advice and information.

He warned no action would lead to more festival goers carrying out their own pill tests with do-it-yourself kits, which RACP does not support.

"Pill testing is by no means a panacea; it needs to be implemented in conjunction with other evidence-based harm minimisation measures that prioritise the health and safety of festival goers over criminal and legal measures."

The NSW coroner is looking into the recent five music festival deaths, with a directions hearing to be held next Tuesday ahead of a likely inquest.

Police investigating one of the deaths have appealed for help to identify a woman with Joshua Tam before he died at a Central Coast music festival on December 29.

The woman - believed to have been an acquaintance - spoke briefly to medical staff treating him but left without leaving her details.

Officers also want to speak to anyone with Mr Tam leading up to and during the festival.

© AAP 2019