March 27, 2002
(Health and Community Services)

Government discontinuing pilot project on prescription monitoring

Julie Bettney, Minister of Health and Community Services, announced today the pilot project on prescription monitoring will be discontinued. The program was a two-year pilot project with the Newfoundland Medical Board and was initiated in June 2000 to monitor prescriptions for narcotics and sedatives.

Minister Bettney said an evaluation of the program showed the program did not result in a significant decline in the number of prescriptions being issued for narcotics and sedatives. This was the main goal of the pilot project, and the results were unsatisfactory. The Clinical Epidemiology Group at Memorial University conducted the evaluation, and the decision to discontinue the pilot project was based on the outcome of that review.

"The program did have a positive impact in some of the areas where we had concerns," said Minister Bettney. "On most occasions, when physicians were notified that their patients had been to see several doctors and obtained the monitored drugs, that activity stopped."

The program also confirmed the majority of patients and physicians are not involved in inappropriate activity with regard to narcotics and sedatives, stated Minister Bettney.

"However, we remain concerned that there is a small group of people who continue to visit numerous general practitioners each month to access narcotics and sedatives," said Minister Bettney. "We also have identified that there are a limited number of general practitioners who are prescribing high volumes of these drugs."

That information indicates that rather than having a broad-based monitoring program, more specific interventions are required to address problem areas. The minister said the department will pursue legislative amendments, with proper consideration of privacy issues, to allow government to report the identity and take action with patients who are suspected of double doctoring. This will require amending the Medical Care Insurance Act. She has also encouraged the Newfoundland Medical Board to investigate the suspected general practitioners for re-education and/or disciplinary action with respect to their prescribing patterns.

Minister Bettney said monitoring prescriptions will continue to take place through initiatives which had been in place prior to the pilot project. These include the policy of the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program to limit some of its clients to one pharmacy and MCP’s utilization reviews which request explanations from patients and physicians when there appear to be excess visits.

"We are also planning to move forward with the establishment of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Network," said Minister Bettney. "This network will take several years to implement and is expected to link pharmacies, physicians and health facilities to allow for the electronic exchange of medication information. Among its many functions, the system will identify, on a ‘real time’ basis, patients who could be misusing narcotics and sedatives and physicians who have questionable prescribing patterns."

Minister Bettney thanked the Newfoundland Medical Board and the participating physicians and pharmacists for their involvement in the pilot project.

Media contact: Carmel Turpin, Communications, (709) 729-1377.

2002 03 27                          4:45 p.m.

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