By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
The province has entered the next phase of its narcotics strategy by now monitoring controlled substance medications across the province.
During an announcement Tuesday (May 22), Health Minister Deb Matthews, said the ministry will now be tracking both doctors who are prescribing narcotics and controlled substance medications and pharmacists who are dispensing them. Usage of the involved drugs will also be monitored and alerts will be issued when cases of double-doctoring, when scripts for the same drug are prescribed by more than one doctor, or multiple pharmacy visits are detected.
“By monitoring the prescribing and dispensing of narcotics, we can track and reduce the misuse and unlawful activities surrounding them,” said Matthews, who is also the MPP for London North Centre.
The first phase of this strategy was implemented last November, when it became a requirement to show identification to Ontario doctors, dentists and sometimes pharmacists before receiving prescription narcotics. Now, pharmacies are electronically collecting and submitting information through the narcotics monitoring system, so the province can securely track the prescribing and dispensing of the drugs.
Matthews stressed education is a big part of this strategy.
“We know that a lot of our physicians and dentists today actually do need better education on what is an appropriate amount, how many pills, what strength, for how long a period of time, so that education is underway.
“Some people will need very clear one-on-one education and it will be a progression.”
As for cases where an individual user is suspected of double-doctoring or using more than one physician for prescriptions, Matthews said that information could be shared with the police.
“The approach is intended to be proportionate, but we do have in legislation the ability to report to law enforcement,” she said.
While the London police already receive information from pharmacies and physicians, Chief Brad Duncan said the department will now have access to “more regularized information, based on good, solid data.”
“Our ability to have information provided down the road will assist in getting at those individuals who are engaged in criminal acts,” he said. “This really doesn’t change what we do a police officers in terms of conducting fraud, drug investigations.”
A lot of the onus of this strategy, however, is placed on pharmacists. That’s something Karan Dhami, a pharmacist and co-owner of a Shoppers Drug Mart on Fanshawe Park Road West, said he’s excited about.
“It’ll really give us the opportunity to spend time on helping patient outcomes as opposed to worrying about whether or not that’s a legitimate prescription,” he said, adding pharmacists won’t need any additional training. “That information has always been available to us to some degree, but now it’s right across the board, across Ontario.”
As for whether he thinks this could mean more pharmacies will deny filling prescriptions, Dhami said it will be interesting to see how the database works out.
The monitoring system became fully operational on May 14. While around a million transactions have already taken place, it’s expected around four to six months worth of data will be needed before trends can be identified.