A Computer System Linking Doctor’s Offices, Hospitals and Pharmacists May Help Curb Painkiller Abuse in Newfoundland and Labrador

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There has been no shortage of news stories, especially in the health sections of major news sites, of Canadians succumbing to addiction at the hands of prescription medications. In particular, powerful painkillers that seem to be among the biggest offenders when it comes to getting people hooked on the high that these drugs offer when abused. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the story is quite the same as across Canada. The other problem is that while many teens and young adults are stealing pills to get high, the epidemic of prescription painkillers reaches just about every age group and walk of life.

RCMP Const. David Emberley says addiction to opioid drugs such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine can be particularly devastating. “People who are fine, upstanding citizens become drug addicts who are just living day to day,” he said. “Their whole day is about trying to get more drugs, and everything else kind of falls by the wayside.”

The fact that these medications are causing an enormous amount of harm to so many people (North America is responsible for consuming 80% of the world’s opioids) is already old news. We understand what’s going on, but the most frustrating part is what to do about it. The government is trying, especially with the idea to make painkiller tablets more resistant to tampering, as well as offering more information to help educate young people on the dangers of these drugs, but it simply isn’t enough anymore. Doctors, pharmacists and government officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are considering a province wide computer system (similar to others like it in other provinces) that would help track and analyze the dispensing and prescribing of these painkillers in order to curb the upward trend of over-prescribing that is plaguing the province.

Health Minister Steve Kent acknowledged that gap. “There is a rising rate of opioid addiction in our province and addressing that is a top priority for government,” he said. About 40 per cent of 200 pharmacies are now linked to a computerized network, covering around 60 per cent of the population. “We’re actively working to increase that number to get everybody connected which will definitely make a difference.”

This system is helping people, but there are significant flaws that are preventing more lives from being saved and more impact being made on the drug problem in Newfoundland and Labrador. The major problem, of course, is to set up this computer system in such a way that it would be the exact same in every pharmacy, hospital and doctor’s office. A daunting task that could take a long time to implement and a lot of maintenance from IT experts in order to keep it running smoothly and accurately.

The idea, on the whole, is a good one and as results in other province’s like BC it has been shown to be a very effective way of dealing with the issue of over-prescribing and too many pills being made available to people who don’t need them but are using them for a means to get high, or selling them to people who have been cut off by their doctors. This is just another solid idea that may help turn the tides on the ongoing battle of prescription drug abuse.



A Computer System Linking Doctor’s Offices, Hospitals and Pharmacists May Help Curb Painkiller Abuse in Newfoundland and Labrador