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USYD pharmacist: leading change in medicines policy

Breaking the pharmacy career mould
Matthew McCrone is leading the implementation of Australia’s first real-time prescription monitoring system. Find out how a Bachelor of Pharmacy and an inquisitive mind led him on an unusual path.

Overseeing some of the Victorian Government's most signifciant medicines policy initiatives, Matthew McCrone has found himself in a crucial role improving medicine accessibility, but how did he get there? We took a look at his career journey and discovered, like most of us, that he has had plenty of 'how did I get here?' moments.

After graduating from Sydney Pharmacy School in 1991, Matthew spent a decade in community pharmacy in Canberra then in the United Kingdom working for the NHS. He was the lead pharmacist for a group of pharmacies in Canberra when he decided it was time for a change.

That's when he began working at the Therapeutic Goods Administration on prescription medicine evaluation, in clinical trials and access to unapproved therapeutic goods.

He later oversaw the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee – the national decision makers on drug classification. This allowed Matthew to see beyond pharmaceuticals into domestic chemicals, veterinary medicine, pesticides and farming chemicals.

Matthew had one of his first 'how did I get here?' moments when he found himself considering the human exposure risks of canine Prozac (all veterinary medicines have to be evaluated to assess any risk to humans before they are allowed to enter the market).

In 2008, Matthew moved down south to become the Chief Officer of drugs and poisons regulation at the Victorian Department of Health. He ran the regulatory framework for the drugs and poisons branch.

A few years later, medicinal cannabis started gaining momentum. In 2014, the Victorian Government made an election commitment to make medicinal cannabis legal for patients with life-threatening conditions.

As head of the taskforce responsible for legalising medicinal cannabis, Matthew entered the politically charged project to set up the Office of Medicinal Cannabis. Engaging with politicians and navigating the volatile landscape with Commonwealth agencies to amend Victorian law became part of his day-to-day life.

Matthew is currently implementing a system for doctors and pharmacists to get real-time information about the supply of medicines to patients, particularly high-risk medicines and prescription opioids. As the supply for these drugs has increased, so has the need for a monitoring system.

The Victorian Government announced the $29.6 million, four-year project in 2015 which included the development of clinical software, workforce training, support packages and a public awareness campaign.

Recently, Matthew found himself on set filming the public awareness campaign for the system. Again, he caught himself thinking 'how did I get here?' The system will be launched state-wide in early 2019 and will become mandatory for doctors and pharmacists from mid-2020. The system is now commonly known as SafeScript.

Once this project winds down, Matthew will most-likely find himself facing another unexpected career turn, wondering how he got there, armed only with a Bachelor of Pharmacy.

Matthew's career highlights

  • 08/11/1991
    Photograph of the Pharmacy building

    Bachelor of Pharmacy

    Graduated with BPharm from the University of Sydney
  • 01/01/1992
    Photograph of colourful pills

    Community Pharmacist

    Began working as a community pharmacist in Canberra.
  • 16/03/2001
    Photograph of the TGA building

    Therapeutic Goods Administration

    Began working at the TGA on prescription medicine evaluation and clinical trials.
  • 14/09/2005

    Secretary, National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee

    Oversaw national framework for the scheduling of medicines and chemicals.
  • 05/10/2008
    Photograph of tracker spraying pesticides

    Chief Officer, Drugs and Poisons Regulation

    Promoted to head the drug regulation at the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
  • 19/09/2014
    Close-up photograph of cannabis plant

    Head of the Medicinal Cannabis Taskforce

    Established the Office of Medicinal Cannabis at the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria.
  • 11/03/2015
    Logo for SafeScript

    Director of SafeScript

    Appointed as Director of the Real-Time Prescription Monitoring Implementation project worth $29.6 million over four-years.
6 September 2018

Matthew McCrone

Photograph of Matthew McCrone
Director, SafeScript
"What has held me in good stead over the years is the inquisitive mind you have to have to be a pharmacist, it is the way we are taught to assess things."
Bachelor of Pharmacy alumni