British Columbia becomes first Canadian jurisdiction to expand access to prescription drug supply
British Columbia is gradually implementing a new policy to expand access to a supply of prescribed and safer drugs.
British Columbia is the first province in the country to introduce this public health measure
The change comes as illicit drug overdose deaths remain high in British Columbia after a string of record months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
British Columbia reports at least 160 overdose deaths in May
“When fully implemented, more people who use drugs can be prescribed a wider range of options,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson.
“British Columbia is leading the way as the first province to allow prescribed safe supply. “
At least 160 British Columbians died of an overdose during the month of May, the second-highest monthly total on record.
May, the last month for which data are available, marked the 15th consecutive month with more than 100 suspected deaths from illicit drug toxicity in British Columbia.
The provincial government has allocated up to $ 22.6 million to health authorities to implement the change.
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The pandemic has led to an increase in the number of illicit drug-related deaths as more users have used illicit drugs alone while the toxicity of street illicit drugs has worsened amid tight international borders.
“This is a tool within a comprehensive response to the overdose crisis as we also continue to build a treatment system so that everyone can get the care they need,” said Malcolmson .
“There is more to do, and we will not stop working until we resolve this crisis. “
The government of British Columbia declared a provincial health emergency six years ago related to the illicit drug overdose crisis.
Once fully implemented, drug alternatives will be covered by pharmacare, including a range of opioids and stimulants as determined by programs and prescribers.
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“With more than 7,000 lives lost to toxic illicit drugs, we need new measures to connect people to the supports they need to stay safe,” said Dr. British Columbia.
“Reducing the harm to people who use drugs is the right thing to do. The introduction of this new policy to expand the safer prescribed supply is a big change for the BC healthcare system.
The new safer prescribed procurement policy will be rolled out in a phased approach, starting with implementation through existing health authority funded programs that are currently prescribing alternatives to illicit drugs.
The first phase of this new policy is expected to be in place for 18-24 months as data is collected to evaluate the approach.
Five years after the declaration of a public health emergency in the drug overdose crisis in British Columbia
Province says phased implementation ensures patient and prescriber safety, while providing opportunity for rigorous monitoring and evaluation as British Columbia builds body of evidence that will lead to clinical advice .
“We also know that this toxic drug supply puts people who use drugs at increased risk of death. An increase in the secure supply will save lives. It’s another way to connect people to other parts of the system, the health care system, housing or getting a meal, ”said Henry.
“There is no single measure that will get us out of the toxic drug supply crisis.”
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