As a long-time advocate for mental health and supports, Ruby Hoskins, chairwoman of the Stand Against Drugs Committee, said today is “monumental.”
Hoskins was responding to the announcement of newly proposed legislation for prescription monitoring in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The law will, as proposed, require doctors to review a patient’s complete medical history before writing a prescription for an opioid, among other measures meant to reduce inappropriate prescribing.
“I think it’s going to have a tremendous impact on our entire province in preventing the overprescribing of opioids and also help protect (against) the ongoing abuse of prescription drugs in the province,” she told reporters at Confederation Building in St. John’s this morning (Wednesday).
The act adds new capabilities for information sharing with regulators and the monitoring powers are expected to allow for identification of anyone potentially overprescribing drugs.
Health Minister John Haggie said the legislation is not about policing doctors, but an opportunity to educate, while improving safety.
It comes on the heels of the government’s naloxone kit program, pop-up naloxone tents at summer festivals and a country-leading safe prescribing course for doctors, now mandatory.
“We have a higher rate of opioid prescribing in Canada than any other G7 country and Newfoundland and Labrador is at the forefront of those numbers, so it is a significant issue,” Haggie said.
Hoskins said she’s hoping the province will next add additional addictions treatment centres, particularly one on the Burin Peninsula.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association said in a news release it supports creation of the monitoring act, but is concerned about the inadequate consultation and unanswered questions surrounding the legislation.
The NLMA said some provisions in the legislation could have an unintended effect of driving doctors away form prescribing opioids and related medication, with serious consequences for patients who legitimately need them.
"Our concern is that the medical association was given less than 24 hours to review the draft legislation before the act was released," president Dr. Lynn Dwyer said in a news release.
"The House of Assembly can still improve the legislation by making amendments and we encourage them to do so."
NLMA executive director Robert Thompson laid out the association's assessment to reporters, including points where amendments might be made to alleviate concerns.
One of the points of concern, he said, is around new inspectors and power afforded to government to enter a doctor's office without a warrant and examine records. Whether or not a doctor is in compliance with the new rules can be verified without these inspection actions, he said.