VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There is a way for doctors to find out if their patients are abusing prescription drugs, but only about 30 per cent of them use it according to a report from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The mother of a young man who recently overdosed who wonders if her son would be alive today if more doctors used PharmaNet.
PharmaNet is a program that allows doctors to check a database of what their patients have been prescribed, even by other doctors. This program could be very useful in the fight against addiction. Addiction Nursing fellow with the St. Paul’s Hospital Pauline Voon thinks this could be a very useful tool in the fight against addiction. “Without physicians checking to see if patients are already prescribed high-risk medications such as opioids, they could be potentially prescribing them additional opioids or other medications that can be high-risk for overdose or death.”
Leslie McBain’s son Jordan was addicted to Oxycontin and had started doctor-shopping after his family doctor refused to prescribe any more. She says not one of the doctors who met Jordan checked PharmaNet. “If they had done so, they would’ve realized what medication had already been prescribed and that he was at risk for addiction and it may have saved his life. I don’t know.”
McBain is asking for doctors to be more accountable for what they’re prescribing “I ask them to be more mindful. To check PharmaNet, even before it becomes an actual regulation. I think it’s their obligation and their responsibility to do so.”
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS report is recommending requiring doctors to sign up for and use PharmaNet. Pauline Voon says it would be a simple extra step. “We would really like to see that there is a checkbox that physicians actually have to tick off to show that they have checked PharmaNet before they’re prescribing opioids. That would help prevent duplicate prescriptions or other dangerous co-prescriptions with opioids.”
Some of the other recommendations include better doctor training in pain and addiction management, a maximum limit on the amount of opioids which can be prescribed at one time and requiring benzodiazepine prescriptions on a duplicate prescription pad. Benzodiazepine is sold under brand names like Xanax and Valium.