CMPA urges caution when prescribing opioid medications

Friday, November 18, 2016 Drug News
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OTTAWA, Nov. 18, 2016 /CNW/ - The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) applauds the Governments of Canada

and Ontario for convening a two-day summit on the issue of opioid overprescribing and abuse, and urges Canadian physicians to exercise caution when prescribing and administering these medications to treat pain.


executives of the CMPA, which represents Canadian doctors in medical-legal cases, are taking part in the Opioid Summit being held in Ottawa and sharing information on the risks associated with using opioid medications to manage pain. The CMPA has published risk management advice for Canadian physicians on the safe and effective use of opioids in clinical practice, as well as steps that can be taken to mitigate the risks associated with narcotics.

"At the CMPA, we recognize that physicians have an important role to play in reducing the harm caused by these potent medications," said Dr. Hartley Stern, Chief Executive Officer of the CMPA. "We also acknowledge that this is not easy territory for doctors to navigate. Many Canadians suffer from chronic pain and there is a scarcity of proper pain management services in many communities."

Commonly prescribed to manage severe pain caused by everything from bone fractures to cancer, opioid medications such as fentanyl and oxycodone also produce a feeling of euphoria and are highly addictive. The use of opioids to treat chronic pain is leading to growing medical-legal difficulties for Canadian doctors. Between 2010 and 2015, the CMPA handled 151 medical-legal cases involving allegations of patient harm related to opioid prescribing. These cases mostly involved opioids prescribed for chronic pain.

"The medical community needs to take another look at opioids and reconsider the benefits and risks, including their effectiveness in treating pain," said Dr. Gordon Wallace, Managing Director of Safe Medical Care at CMPA. "For many years, the benefits of opioids have been oversold and the risks understated. Although there is certainly a role for the use of opioids, healthcare practitioners need to first consider alternatives to prescribing these drugs."

During the summit, sponsored by Health Canada, the CMPA hopes to advance recommendations to lessen the misuse of opioids and lower addiction rates across the country. These recommendations include the following: 

  1. Improved e-prescribing, as well as the establishment of systems that can better record and track the prescribing of opioid drugs. While a national system jointly funded by the federal and provincial / territorial governments would be preferred, enhanced electronic databases at the provincial level would be a positive step forward. 
  2. Regularly update national guidelines for the prescribing of opioid medications and ensure that they are available at the point of care.
  3. Greater assistance to physicians to help patients who suffer from chronic pain, as well as those who have become addicted to opioids. This assistance could come in the form of greater access to specialized resources for pain management, as well as better access to addiction treatment options for patients.
  4. A national awareness campaign on the risks of opioid prescription and consumption. Making the general public more aware of the dangers of opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone could help reduce the prevalence of addiction, as well as educate people on the ways in which these drugs should be properly used.
  5. Increased funding for research on the abuse of prescription opioids, as well as for training on effective pain management and safe opioid prescribing practices.

The CMPA is committed to working with stakeholders nationwide to facilitate safe opioid prescribing and improve patient care. Physicians can find detailed information about opioid prescribing on the Association's website at: Doctors who have questions about the use of opioids, or specific patient cases, are encouraged to contact the CMPA by telephone at 1-800-267-6522 to speak with a Physician Advisor.  

"Working together, Canada's healthcare community can effectively address the opioid crisis," said the CMPA's Dr. Stern. "Effective communication among pharmacists, physicians, patients and families is a critical step in the process."

_______________About the CMPA:The Canadian Medical Protective Association provides advice, legal assistance, and an extensive risk management education program to more than 95,000 physicians. It is the principal provider of medical liability protection in Canada and is governed by an elected council of physicians. As an essential component of the healthcare system, the CMPA is firmly committed to protecting the professional integrity of physicians and promoting safe medical care.


SOURCE Canadian Medical Protective Association

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