Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

New mandatory opioid warning stickers not sufficient to address prescription opioid misuse

May 3, 2018 (Ottawa): Yesterday, the Government of Canada announced regulations requiring new warning stickers and labels on all opioid prescriptions at all pharmacies in Canada. While more information about the potential risks associated with prescription opioids may raise awareness amongst some patients, the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) believes that the use of warning stickers on all opioid prescriptions may not always be appropriate and that more effective measures could be implemented to enable pharmacists to prevent prescription opioid misuse.

Whether it’s a new prescription or a repeat prescription, pharmacists are the last point of contact with patients before they begin taking opioids. This means that they are uniquely positioned to provide enhanced counselling and information to each patient based on their own unique circumstances. Warning stickers can help reinforce messages from prescribers and pharmacists but can also cause patients to be non-compliant with their therapy. This is why pharmacists should be able to determine when a warning sticker is appropriate and when it may not be.

The problem of prescription opioid misuse largely stems from inappropriate prescribing and from insufficient counselling by health providers. Pharmacists can help in both these areas. Specifically, CPhA believes that governments should support enhanced counselling programs such as medication reviews and enable pharmacists to adjust opioid prescriptions. Currently, federal regulations do not allow pharmacists to adjust patients’ opioid prescriptions, which means they cannot reduce dosages, substitute for a non-opioid alternative, or taper patients off of opioids, to suit the needs of each patient.

If the Government of Canada is serious about prevention, it should consider a more comprehensive approach to prevention that maximizes and leverages the unique skills of pharmacists as drug experts and Canada’s most accessible community health care providers. We continue to look forward to working with Minister Petitpas Taylor and the federal government to identify some of the solutions that will help address Canada’s opioid crisis.

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.