Stricter controls on the way for methadone in B.C.
Published Friday, September 24, 2010 6:12PM PDT
B.C.'s pharmacists will face stricter controls on their methadone supplies, and the province's pharmacy watchdog says even more rules could be on the way to stop kickback schemes and scams.
Starting in October, pharmacists will have to keep records of all narcotics in their possession to better report theft of the drugs and keep track of methadone use, according to B.C.'s College of Pharmacists.
"This policy change adds more rigour and structure to what many pharmacists were doing in the first place," said the college's deputy registrar Suzanne Solven.
She said the policy came into being as a result of increased concerns about thefts from pharmacies, but that the rules would work in tandem with anti-kickback regulations that have been announced already.
Other rules could be on their way after the college completes a review of methadone practices by the end of the year, she added.
Methadone is a daily medication that satisfies cravings for addicts and keeps them away from hard drugs.
It's the drug that stabilizes the life of a former heroin addict named Annie, who told CTV News that the drug is a welcome change from nine years of addiction.
"The evils of heroin take you down to places that you want to take to the grave," she said.
"Methadone saved my life, I don't get sickness and the evil's gone."
But methadone's high demand on the street makes the pharmacists a target of theft, and the methadone system has been abused.
In January, CTV News caught what appeared to be two pharmacist employees offer a Langley drug recovery house a kickback for a methadone prescription.
"Is this standard?" one of them was asked.
"It's a perk," she replied.
Often the kickbacks go straight to the addicts.
"They take the money, and they go buy heroin," said Alex Tam, a pharmacist in the Downtown Eastside. "You're defeating the purpose of controlling addictions."
Tam says he supports the efforts by the College of Pharmacists and the province to stop the abuses.
But Daniel Reist of the Centre for Addictions Research says his study of the methadone system suggests a central agency should coordinate doctors, pharmacists and counsellors.
"You need an actual mechanism that ensures there is accountability and transfer between those three pieces, and they have not taken any steps to build that," he said.
Reist says that without a centralized body, the system doesn't work together to get patients off methadone safely, lower their chances of a relapse and send them on their way to a full recovery.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward