Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Pharmacy Tracking Could Help Curb Opioid Abuse in Newfoundland: Police, Minister

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Pharmacy Tracking Could Help Curb Opioid Abuse in Newfoundland: Police, Minister

Article excerpt

Prescription drug abuse grows in Newfoundland


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Police say abuse of prescription pain relievers is a huge problem for Newfoundland and Labrador but it lacks a crucial antidote: a provincewide computer tracking system.

RCMP Const. David Emberley says addiction to opioid drugs such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine can be particularly devastating.

"People who are fine, upstanding citizens become drug addicts who are just living day to day," he said. "Their whole day is about trying to get more drugs, and everything else kind of falls by the wayside."

Emberley, who serves on a combined enforcement unit with other Mounties and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, said better tracking would help.

"Opioids are a huge problem. And this is not just in St. John's or the bigger centres but right across the province."

Individual pills often sell on the street for $80 or more depending on the dose and usually come from pharmacies, not illicit labs, he said. But Newfoundland and Labrador still lacks a full computer network that could trace those who fill multiple prescriptions from various doctors at different pharmacies.

Health Minister Steve Kent acknowledged that gap.

"There is a rising rate of opioid addiction in our province and addressing that is a top priority for government," he said.

About 40 per cent of 200 pharmacies are now linked to a computerized network, covering around 60 per cent of the population.

"We're actively working to increase that number to get everybody connected which will definitely make a difference."

Stephen Reid, executive director of the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said there are technological stumbling blocks. Any network that will catch patterns of abuse has to allow physicians and druggists using multiple information technology providers to talk to each other, he said.

"You want a system that is the same at a pharmacy, at a hospital and a doctor's office. That's the only way people are going to be able to determine whether they're double-doctoring or whether they've visited a doctor's office and got multiple prescriptions."

Most other provinces have some form of pharmacy network, Reid said. …

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