Recent events in British Columbia have highlighted the urgency with which policy makers, regulatory bodies, and clinicians need to act together to address the public health harms related to pharmaceutical opioids and other addictive pharmaceutical drugs. This report briefly describes the provincial pharmaceutical opioid problem and provides several key recommendations for immediate steps to reduce fatal overdoses, misuse, addiction and other severe harms related to unsafe opioid prescribing in BC.
Summary of the Tool:
Canada has the second highest opioid consumption rate among developed countries, with the rate of pharmaceutical opioid use tripling in Canada over the past decade. Additionally, from 2005 to 2011, the rate of dispensing strong opioids in BC increased by almost 50% overall, including a 135% increase in oxycodone dispensation.
While the pharmaceutical opioid epidemic has emerged throughout North America, recent events in BC have highlighted the urgency with which BC policymakers must act to address the public health harms related to pharmaceutical opioids and other addictive pharmaceutical drugs.
BC is uniquely positioned to rapidly implement several safeguards to reduce unsafe prescribing practices through the province’s PharmaNet system and other interventions. PharmaNet is an electronic information system that records data on all prescriptions dispensed at community pharmacies in BC.
Limitations include: receiving little training on how to safely prescribe opioids, or how to identify and treat opioid addiction.