The Trade investigative team followed the path of pharmaceutical opioids that are fueling addictions on the street. It’s a story with a long history — and a lot of money —  behind it. Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars from opioids such as hydromorphone, oxycodone and fentynal. Aggressive marketing campaigns have led to high prescription rates, patient addiction and pharmaceutical-grade drugs ending up in the hands of street dealers. In 2017, Purdue Pharma paid a $20 million dollar legal settlement for any damages done from their extensive marketing of OxyContin to the medical community and the public. The money goes towards aiding anyone who could prove they were harmed by OxyContin between January, 1996 and February, 2017. Two million dollars also went to provincial governments.

Prescribed Opioids

Opioids are used medically for the treatment of pain. In 2016, Saskatchewan doctors dispensed 22 fentanyl prescriptions and 152 hydromorphone prescriptions per 1,000 people, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Information. In response to rising concerns about the abuse of prescribed medication, the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons has created an online prescription tracking data base and patient review system.

 

 

 

 

Saskatchewan Prescriptions 2016

  • Fentanyl
  • Hydromorphone

HYDROMORPHONE

THE SILENT KILLER

SEMI-SYNTHETIC, SCHEDULE II OPIOID DERIVED FROM MORPHINE
POPULAR BRAND NAME: DILAUDID
KNOWN ON THE STREETS AS DILLIES, HYDRO, DUST,  JUICE, SMACK

 

While fentanyl deaths make the news, fewer people are aware of the widespread prescribing and abuse of hydromorphone in Saskatchewan. The number of hydromorphone prescriptions in Saskatchewan increased almost 25 per cent from 2012 to 2016, while prescription numbers for other opioids remained nearly the same.

Saskatchewan Opioid-Related Deaths 2014 to 2017

  • Fentanyl
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine

9mg hydromorphone pill

Hydromorphone_Webpage

The Prescription Review Program

The Prescription Review Program is operated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan. The monitoring system is intended to track drugs that are likely to be misused. “The primary approach [to punishment] will be an educational one to try to assist the physician to ensure that they’re prescribing appropriately,” says legal counsel and associate registrar Bryan Salte. “If that fails, then we have to deal with it in a more aggressive fashion, dealing with it as an issue of potential discipline.”

The PIP System

The Pharmaceutical Information Program, or the PIP System, is operated by the College of Pharmacy Professionals. The system is a province-wide database of patient profiles for all pharmacists to access. However, in-hospital patients and long term care facilities are not monitored.