Ensuring Safe Prescribing and Investigating Concerns
The CPSO recently released the results of our investigations into several physicians with potentially concerning opioid prescribing practices. When the investigations were launched in November 2016, many patients on opioid therapy feared physicians would stop prescribing opioids. We told patients and physicians that understanding and questioning prescribing practices is not intended to discourage appropriate opioid prescribing, and we stressed that it was our expectation that physicians who were the subject of an investigation would not suddenly cease prescribing to patients currently on opioid therapy as such an act would not be good medical care.
Our goal has always been to keep physicians in practice and to support education and continued prescribing under supervision. Eighty-one of the 84 investigations are now complete and the investigation outcomes demonstrate that wherever possible, we have chosen to support physician education: we took no action in 22 cases, provided advice to six and prescribed self-study for two. Forty-four physicians with identified learning needs will participate in education and practise under the guidance of a supervisor, while three physicians now have prescribing restrictions and another three are no longer practising. Only one physician was referred for a discipline hearing.
It’s important to remember that we have not asked physicians to stop prescribing opioids, but to prescribe responsibly and to stay in line with best practices. We have also told physicians that it is never appropriate to abandon a patient on long-term opioid therapy or to abruptly cut off or threaten to cut off a patient’s medication.
For patients on opioid therapy, safely reducing long-term opioid medication, where clinically indicated, requires a thoughtful plan of care that is discussed between you and your doctor. If you have concerns about reducing your opioid medication, speak with your doctor, or contact the College’s Public Advisory Service at 1-800-268-7096 ext. 603.
You can also read our Message to Patients Living with Chronic Non-Cancer Pain and our FAQ for Patients which will give you and your family some useful guidance and advice regarding opioid therapy.
Know the Signs of Opioid Overdose: Get the overdose wallet card
What would you do if a friend or family member was in crisis due to an opioid overdose? Health Canada’s opioid overdose wallet card contains quick and useful information on how to spot an opioid overdose and what to do if you suspect an overdose. To help encourage people to call for help during an overdose, the card also includes information on the Good Samaritan Overdose Act, legislation that protects people who seek emergency help during an overdose situation from charges related to simple drug possession. You can order wallet cards and find other useful resources on the Government of Canada’s Opioid Toolkit webpage.
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