Dear Minister Hoffman,
As you know the opioid epidemic is impacting communities in Alberta and across Canada. As of October 2016 in Edmonton there were more overdose deaths related to prescription opioids than fentanyl although the opioid epidemic is often still framed as simply the fentanyl epidemic.
After reading the third and partial fourth quarter report on opioid related deaths I was shocked to see how many interactions with the healthcare system individuals had before their death. I see these as possible missed opportunities.
49% of the people who died from an opioid overdose other than fentanyl filled an opioid prescription within 30 days of their death and 17% were under medical care for pain.
When we look at deaths related to fentanyl 24% of those individuals filled an opioid prescription within 30 days of dying. 40% of those who filled prescriptions were prescribed an opioid from three or more different health care providers.
As you know Minister, Alberta has the Triplicate Prescription Program which collects prescribing and dispensing data on monitored drugs such as opioids.
In their last annual report it states there were 1,817,511 monitored drug prescriptions written in Alberta to 437,324 patients. However physicians only requested to view patient profiles 737 times.
This appears to be a grossly underutilized resource that could help physicians make more informed decisions when prescribing. If physicians were checking patient profiles regularly they may have a better chance of recognizing when someone may benefit from addiction treatment and could explore that option with their patient.
I commend the governments recent efforts to expand various harm reduction services. We need to save the lives of those using now, that needs to be a priority. However we also must not forget efforts to prevent new people from being unescessarily exposed to opioids through the healthcare system.
Physicians must use all tools available such as the triplicate prescription program to help identify patients in possible need of additional support services such as addiction treatment.
Regulatory agencies must also use these same tools to ensure physicians are prescribing in a manner that is not more harmful than helpful.
After losing my brother Joshua to an opioid overdose in 2011 I have been advocating for action and accountability on the opioid crisis while watching with a broken heart the rates of addiction and death soar.
What is your government doing to ensure people are given the opportunity to initiate treatment when they present themselves in various streams of the health care system?
What is your government doing to ensure they are minimizing unesscessary exposure to prescription opioids?
Get Prescription Drugs off the Street Society