Madame Speaker, I rise today to provide an update on the issue of prescripton drug misuse on PEI and I will ask for the indulgence of the house as I will provide a brief overview of the measures we are taking to assist and protect Islanders.
Doctors and dentists can prescribe opioids for patients who are suffering from pain. While many patients do benefit from these medications, certain prescription drugs can cause serious harm – – such as addiction, overdose and death if not used appropriately.
Over the last number of decades, a variety of factors have contributed to an increase in the promotion of opioids for chronic pain management, such as chronic back or knee pain. When prescribed and used appropriately, opioids can have therapeutic benefits. But it is now increasingly evident that these drugs have a high potential for harm – – which can have a significant social impact on our communities and in our homes. This impact is felt in our education system, by our justice system, our health and social service systems as well as by Islanders and their families.
For these reasons, today I am tabling the Narcotics Safety and Awareness Act – – one component of a comprehensive approach we are preparing to help reduce the devastating effects of prescription drug misuse on Prince Edward Island.
Through the current Drug Information System the province already has the capability to electronically link pharmacies, physicians’ offices, addiction centres, emergency rooms, and other health facilities with a database which maintains patient medication records. This new legislation will go a step further and allow for monitoring, analysing and taking action in instances of inappropriate dispensing or prescribing of narcotics.
In instances of inappropriate or excessive prescribing or dispensing, responses could include new educational opportunities, reporting to the appropriate regulatory body and in extreme circumstances, financial penalties or imprisonment.
As Minister I recognize that we need to collaborate closely with the regulatory bodies including the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Dental Association of Prince Edward Island to identify and address the educational needs and support mechanisms for prescribers and dispensers.
Madame Speaker, our Government recognized that there was an unacceptable wait list in the Methadone Management Treatment Program and we commissioned a study to identify opportunities to significantly improve the program delivery. Last year improved screening methods and wait list management measures were immediately implemented, and this led to a direct reduction in the wait lists. In 2012, prior to the release of the report, there were 180 clients in the program and 175 people on the wait list. There are now 226 people in the program, and the wait list has been reduced to 59 clients.
However, wait times for some clients are still unacceptably long. That is why we will further reduce the wait list by increasing capacity within the system, diversifying the sites where this treatment program is delivered, and streamlining administrative processes. Health PEI is in the process of prioritizing additional program improvements and developing implementation plans for these items.
Taken together, these actions will increase program capacity and reduce wait lists for treatment.
In closing Madame Speaker, across North America addictions, crime and deaths related to prescription drug abuse have increased significantly in recent years. We know that since 2009 there has been a 17.8% increase in the number of tablets prescribed of the five most common opioids on PEI, and in 2012 alone there were over 5 million of these tablets dispensed on PEI.
This new legislation will provide some of the knowledge we need to take action on narcotics abuse in Prince Edward Island —- which is having devastating effects on so many families.