CPhA welcomes new measures to reduce barriers to opioid substitution treatment
March 27, 2018 (Ottawa): The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is pleased with the announcement from the Federal Minister of Health, Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, that Health Canada will ease access to opioid substitution treatments methadone and diacetylmorphine. Accessible and timely treatment options for opioid dependency are an essential pillar of the larger opioid strategy and, like methadone and Suboxone treatment, should be available for patients in community pharmacy settings.
We applaud Health Canada’s leadership in making diacetylmorphine, or prescription heroin, available to patients as an additional treatment option outside of the hospital setting. Patients with opiate addiction vary in their response to opiate agonist treatment and not an insignificant proportion fail on the currently available treatment options. The availability of diacetylmorphine will help meet the needs of those patients who show a lack of sustainable response to these options.
CPhA also welcomes the federal decision to no longer require that prescribers apply for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) in order to obtain and prescribe methadone. However, we are disappointed that pharmacists are still not being used to the full extent of their scope and expertise to tackle the opioid crisis, which kills thousands of Canadians each year.
Pharmacists are well positioned to take on a larger role in curbing dependency and misuse associated with prescription opioid therapies. We have been urging the government to amend the CDSA to include pharmacists as “practitioners” authorized to prescribe controlled drugs and substances. This would add an additional layer of oversight to opioid prescribing by allowing pharmacists to adapt, reduce or taper the dosage of opioids for patients where appropriate and instead prescribe or recommend alternative therapies. With this authority, pharmacists would also be able to work more closely with patients and health care teams to manage opioid replacement therapies, such as methadone and buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), to achieve appropriate dosing and provide better overall support to the patients pharmacists see every day.
“When a patient runs out of their methadone prescription on a Friday night and can’t get a renewal from their doctor, a pharmacist should be able to renew that prescription, to ensure that the patient doesn’t resort to buying potentially toxic opioids off the street,” says Alistair Bursey, Chair, Canadian Pharmacists Association.
Canada must continue to show agility in response to this crisis, which requires innovative strategies in opioid dependency prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. This is the moment for all health care practitioners to use their expertise and demonstrate their value. We urge Health Canada to let pharmacists do just that.
About the Canadian Pharmacists Association
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the uniting national voice of pharmacy and the pharmacist profession in Canada. As pharmacists undertake an enhanced role in the delivery of health care services, CPhA ensures that the profession is recognized as a national leader in health care, influencing the policies, programs, budgets and initiatives affecting the profession and the health of Canadians. More information is available at www.pharmacists.ca