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Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association
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CPhA Statement on Fentanyl Misuse

The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) shares the concern of other health professionals, regulators, law enforcement and government about the growing number of reported overdoses and deaths in Canada related to fentanyl misuse. Urgent attention and a coordinated approach is required by all stakeholders to address this burgeoning crisis.

Fentanyl is an opiate estimated to be 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is typically prescribed in the form of slow-release patches to treat severe pain. The potential for misuse and abuse of the prescription product, diversion of legitimate prescriptions and the illicit street trade involving fentanyl produced in clandestine labs in Canada or offshore have converged to create a tragic situation across Canada.  

Pharmacists have an important role to play in mitigating opiate misuse. As trusted professionals, pharmacists serve as important sources of information to heighten awareness as to the risks of high potency opiates, as well as to the inherent addiction risks of these medications. Many pharmacists across Canada provide addiction management services, and as a result have the potential to interact with those most at risk of overdose.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association is committed to working with government, regulators, law enforcement and other health professionals to address this growing issue. There are a number of measures that CPhA is recommending to mitigate opiate misuse:

  • CPhA has been supportive of fentanyl patch-for-patch programs, whereby patients must return their used fentanyl patches to local pharmacies before receiving new patches. Pharmacists then safely dispose of the returned patches. CPhA is committed to working with government and other stakeholders to ensure that pharmacists have the necessary support to effectively administer such a program. 
  • CPhA is encouraging Health Canada to expedite its review of the prescription status and accessibility of Naloxone, a medication that has the potential to significantly reduce the frequency of deaths that occur with opiate overdosage.
  • CPhA is also calling for the development and implementation of a common harmonized system for e-prescribing in Canada. Such a system would improve patient care and safety, allowing health professionals to better track prescription patterns and patient information to reduce fraud, counterfeiting and better detect potential instances of abuse.  Best practices from provinces such as British Columbia should be used to create a robust national system.

The issues surrounding opiate misuse and abuse are complex but, given the immediate crisis, require urgent attention. Therefore, CPhA strongly urges the federal government convene a meeting with all stakeholders to develop an action plan to address these and other measures that can have a meaningful impact on reducing risks of fentanyl related overdoses and deaths in Canada.

August 17, 2015