Sask. 2nd highest province for fentanyl prescriptions – Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan pharmacists dispensed more fentanyl prescriptions than almost every other province in the country last year, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). 

​If residents had “access to better specialized and multidisciplinary services we’d do better for them in their pain care,” said Julia Bareham. She’s the pharmacist manager with the Prescription Review Program at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan. 

“These should be medications of last resort when everything else has failed.”
– Julia Bareham

“Everyone says non-drug measures — exercise, physio , massage — should all happen first. How do you deal with that with a patient who is dealing with poverty and can’t pay,” she said.

“Yet because of their income level, they’re insured through the province for their medication.” 

Bareham saw a notable shift when therapies like chiropractic services were no longer funded for everyone by the government.

She said the gap between patients and alternative pain management options is growing.

“Our prescribers are left with very few options.”

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released a report titled Pan-Canadian Trends in the Prescribing of Opioids, 2012 to 2016. It shows Saskatchewan pharmacists dispensed more fentanyl prescriptions than almost all of the other provinces. (Canadian Institute for Health Information)

Health Minister: statistic ‘concerning’

The province came in second in fentanyl prescriptions to Quebec, with 22.4 prescriptions dispensed per 1000 Saskatchewan people in 2016. 

“Anytime we’re near the top in a troubling statistic, it’s concerning,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said.

He said the Ministry of Health provides funding to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan so it can monitor prescriptions. 

“You never want to have the higher numbers,” Bareham said. “I’m happy to see it’s a downward trend however, that we’re at least moving in the right direction.”

The number of dispensed fentanyl prescriptions per 1000 population in Saskatchewan has declined over the last five years. 

Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and the strongest opioid used outside of the hospital. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

Fentanyl is prescribed via patches in the province, a method Bareham said is easier for weak, physically traumatized and elderly patients. A patch is put on the patient once every…

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