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Vancouver doctor says vending-machine opioids a cheap way to save lives

Last Updated Sep 11, 2019 at 1:37 pm PDT

FILE - Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are shown in Toronto, Nov. 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Summary

The machine would scan a patient's head for ID before dispensing pills

The vending machine would be a cost-effective way to curb overdose deaths, Tyndall says

VANCOUVER — A doctor whose focus is on public health says he will soon be dispensing opioids through a vending machine in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in order to prevent overdoses from fentanyl-laced street drugs.

Dr. Mark Tyndall says the machine that’s been created in Toronto would scan a patient’s hand for identification before dispensing a pre-programmed number of hydromorphone pills that are a substitute for heroin.

Tyndall, who’s also a professor of medicine at the University of B.C., says the pills cost about 35 cents each and focus groups with drug users have suggested most people would need about 10 to 16 pills a day.

He says the pain medication sold under the brand name Dilaudid is typically crushed and injected by people who may have previously used OxyContin, before that drug was made more difficult to tamper with following multiple fatal overdoses.

Hydromorphone is currently provided through a limited number of Vancouver clinics offering supervised injection to those experiencing severe substance use disorder.

However, Tyndall says rigid requirements that have people returning multiple times a day are impractical and expensive compared with his plan, which could be in the works within a few weeks as a way to curb overdose deaths.

The Canadian Press