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B.C. doctors fight soaring opioid deaths with new drug prescription rules

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June 01, 2016 - 11:30 AM

VANCOUVER - Doctors across British Columbia now have new rules to follow as they prescribe opioids and other medications prone to misuse or abuse.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia has adopted a new professional standard in response to soaring numbers of opioid-related deaths across the province and Canada.

The college's president, Dr. Gerry Vaughan, says the new standard sets mandatory practices for prescription of potentially harmful drugs.

Those include documented discussions with patients about the benefits of non-opioid treatments, a requirement to prescribe the lowest effective dosage, and ongoing patient checks, including routine urine testing.

Before prescribing opioids, sedatives or stimulants, doctors must also review a patient's medication history on PharmaNet, a provincewide network that records every prescription dispensed in B.C.

If that history is unavailable, physicians must consult with colleagues and pharmacists about the patient's background and prescribe only immediately required drugs until the record turns up.

Dr. Heidi Oetter, the college's registrar and CEO, says illicit, powerful opioids, such as fentanyl and W-18, have contributed to the spate of drug deaths, but doctors have also played a role by over-prescribing opioids and other medications.

"Unsafe prescribing needs to stop," Vaughan says in a news release.

"This new document clearly states what our registrants must and must not do when prescribing certain classes of drugs, especially if there is a risk of misuse or diversion."

In April, the provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, described opioid deaths in British Columbia as "a public health emergency."

At current rates, Kendall's office estimates the province could see 600 to 800 fatalities in 2016, a dramatic increase from the 474 recorded in 2015.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press
Tags: Overdose

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