In the News


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This feature in Pharmacy Connection is a place to find information about news stories we’re following. Here, you’ll read summaries of recent stories relating to pharmacy in Ontario and Canada. For the latest updates, stay tuned to e-Connect and www.ocpinfo.com


CHANGES TO PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT, OHIP+

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On June 29, 2018, Ontarians formally welcomed The Honourable Doug Ford as the new Premier of Ontario following his election earlier in the month. Joining Premier Ford at the swearing in ceremony were the newly appointed members of his Executive Council, including the new Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, the Honourable Christine Elliott.

Shortly after her appointment, Minister Elliott announced changes to OHIP+. Children and youth who are not covered by private benefits will continue to receive their eligible prescriptions free. However, if a patient is covered by a private plan, that plan would be billed first, with the government covering all remaining eligible prescription costs.


MANDATORY WARNING STICKER AND HANDOUT WITH PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS

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To help ensure patients receive consistent, relevant information about the safe use of prescription opioids and their potential risks, Health Canada has announced that beginning in October 2018, warning stickers and patient information handouts will be mandatory when dispensing prescription opioids included in Part A of the List of Opioids for new prescriptions and subsequent refills.


FEDERAL GOVERNMENT URGES DRUG MAKERS TO END OPIOID MARKETING

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On June 19, 2018, Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor asked pharmaceutical companies to suspend any opioid marketing and advertising-related activities while Health Canada develops appropriate policies around marketing opioids to the public. This was the same day the federal government released new data showing that nearly 4,000 Canadians died from opioid overdoses in 2017, a 34 percent increase from 2016.

The government has also announced its intent to create a compliance and enforcement team to monitor opioid manufacturers, enforce the rules against improper drug promotion and take action where necessary, including recommending criminal charges.


SEVERAL DRUGS CONTAINING VALSARTAN BEING RECALLED DUE TO CONTAMINATION WITH A POTENTIAL CARCINOGEN

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Health Canada issued an advisory to inform the public that several drugs containing the ingredient valsartan are being recalled by their manufacturers. An impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), was found in the valsartan used in these products. NDMA is a potential human carcinogen, which means that it could cause cancer with long-term exposure. Health Canada is encouraging patients to speak with their pharmacist to advise them if their medicine is being recalled.


PROPOSAL TO ADD TRAMADOL TO SCHEDULE I TO THE CONTROLLED DRUGS AND SUBSTANCES ACT AND THE SCHEDULE TO THE NARCOTIC CONTROL REGULATIONS

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After a review of scientific evidence on the reports of “problematic use of tramadol and the rise in reported deaths” related to the drug, Health Canada announced its intent to reclassify the opioid painkiller tramadol as a Schedule I narcotic, which would place new restrictions on how it is prescribed as a way of reducing dependence and abuse.


NEARLY A QUARTER OF ONTARIO OPIOID PRESCRIPTIONS EXCEED GUIDELINES

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As part of a study, researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and St. Michael’s Hospital examined opioid prescriptions for more than 650,000 patients in Ontario and found nearly a quarter of first-time opioid prescriptions in the province from April 2015 to March 2016 surpassed recommended dose limits. The researchers discovered that the daily dose was more than 50 milligram morphine equivalents for 23.9 percent of initial opioid prescriptions in Ontario.

The study’s findings highlight the importance of therapeutic checks to ensure patients’ prescriptions (both new and refill) are appropriate for them and that pharmacists collaborate with prescribers when and where necessary.