Kelowna mom who lost two sons to overdose calls for mandatory prescription tracking - InfoNews

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Kelowna mom who lost two sons to overdose calls for mandatory prescription tracking

Kelowna mom Helen Jennens holds two photos of her sons who died of accidental overdose. She and a group called Moms Stop The Harm are trying to make it mandatory for doctors to check prescription history before writing new ones.
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February 22, 2018 - 9:00 PM

KELOWNA – If a system that’s already in place across B.C. had been used, Helen Jennens' sons might still be alive.

PharmaNet was first introduced in the mid-1990s to help MSP with billing but before long it was also being used to keep track of dangerous drug interactions for patients with prescriptions from multiple doctors.

Helen Jennens says if the doctors who prescribed narcotics to her sons had looked at their history on PharmaNet, they would have seen a problem.

“He was doctor shopping and getting prescriptions... from several of them before he died,” she says. “If PharmaNet records had been accessed by those walk-in doctors, they would have recognized how deep in addiction he was. He was in trouble. It contributed to his illness.”

Jennens first son Rian died from an accidental overdose in 2011. Her only other son, Tyler, thought he was doing heroin when he was killed by a lethal dose of fentanyl in January 2016.

“Three days before Tyler died he went into a walk-in clinic and saw a doctor he’d never seen before. The doctor gave him a prescription for 180 Xanax,” she says. “I could see giving maybe a dozen, but not 180. That is excessive.”

A toxicology report showed no Xanax in Tyler’s system when he died, but Jennens says 100 of the 180 pills he was given were missing from the bottle.

“I think he traded them, maybe even for the fentanyl that killed him.”

PharmaNet is run by the B.C. Ministry of Health, and currently links all B.C. pharmacies to a central data system. The PharmaNet website says every prescription dispensed in community pharmacies in B.C. is entered into the database.”

Jennens and a group called Mom's Stop the Harm want to make it mandatory that all doctors look at a patient’s prescription history before adding to it.

“I’m not on a witch hunt for doctors,” Jennens says. “I just want them to take a system they already have, improve it and use it. It’s a great tool for monitoring this. It keeps doctors safe and keeps patients safe. It doesn’t make sense that we don’t use it, it should be Canada-wide

She says the only opposition she’s gotten to the idea is from addicts themselves who keep their addictions alive by gaming the system, and doctors who have yet to step into the digital age.

“People in Tyler’s circumstances don’t want it because they are drug seeking. They don’t want the physician to pull up PharmaNet records," she says. “And not everybody is on electronic medical records. Some doctors are still using paper and pen.”

According to new numbers released by the B.C. Coroners Service, more than 1,400 British Columbians died of suspected overdoses in 2017.

It represents a 43 per cent increase from 2016 numbers, when there were 993 overdose deaths. The B.C. Coroners Service says in a news release there were significantly fewer deaths in the last four months of 2017, with an average of less than 100 deaths per month from September to December.

In the first eight months of the year, there were an average of nearly 130 deaths per month.

The Coroners Service says that in most cases, fentanyl was combined with other drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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