Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Task Force recommends sharing personal health information with police in Newfoundland

The Newfoundland governnment established a task force in December 2003 to address the abuse of OxyContin (aka Hillbilly Heroin). The Task Force has released its report , which notably includes recommendations about information sharing between healthcare professionals and the police where abuse is suspected. The Task Force reccomends that existing monitoring programs be expanded and that legislation be passed to allow sharing information with law enforcement and professional regulators:

46) The Task Force recommends that the Provincial Government make the necessary legislative changes to the Medical Act to permit the release of appropriately screened information sharing from MCP [Medical Care Plan]and the NLPDP [Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Plan] to law enforcement agencies in the province, when there is a reasonable belief of fraudulent or criminal activity. The results of this information sharing should be evaluated to determine its effectiveness.

In addition, the Provincial Government should consider laying the framework for a realtime monitoring program. This program is already built into the current proposal for the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Network. The proposed Pharmacy Network is the second component in the development of the Health Information Network and Electronic Health Record for the province. It is an information system that will create individual prescription profiles for everyone who receives medications in the province. Extensive consultations with over 800 stakeholders including health care professionals from many different disciplines (e.g. physicians, pharmacists, social workers, and nurses), regional health boards, regulatory bodies, and the DHCS, informed the work of the Project team.

Pharmacies in the province maintain computerized medication histories for patients; however, these histories are fragmented across all pharmacies, hospitals, and physicians that patients use. The proposed pharmacy network will help health care providers make better-informed and timely decisions about each patient’s care. The network will provide tools and processes to support electronic prescribing, medication dispensing, compliance monitoring, research, and policy development. Increased access to, and use of, appropriate medication information may enhance the quality of care, improve patient safety, facilitate accountability, and promote the cost effective use of medications.

The Pharmacy Network will provide health care providers with the opportunity to deliver better patient care and provide increased patient safety.

It is recognized that the collection of this information is only one step toward addressing the problem. Legislation will be required to ensure complete submission of data by pharmacies, allow for reporting to the police of individuals who fail to respond to other interventions, and to ensure that physicians identified as having concerning prescribing patterns are thoroughly investigated. Human resources will be required to support such a monitoring program, so that the information collected is acted on in a timely and appropriate manner.

Here is the provincial government's press release on the topic:

OxyContin Task Force report released:

"August 3, 2004 (Health and Community Services)

OxyContin Task Force report released

Greater education and public awareness, improved mechanisms for information sharing and stronger collaboration among the medical and policing communities are some of the findings and recommendations outlined in the final report from the OxyContin Task Force. Elizabeth Marshall, Minister of Health and Community Services, joined her colleagues Tom Marshall, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Tom Hedderson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education, today in releasing the report.

"The misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, like OxyContin, is complex and addressing the problem will require more work with our partners," said Minister Elizabeth Marshall. "I would like to thank the task force members for their dedication, contributions and continued efforts. All of the recommendations put forward will be given serious consideration."

The task force final report outlines areas in which OxyContin is most prevalent in the province, including rising access to the drug among adolescents, an increase in the number of prescriptions and increased criminal activity to access OxyContin. It also states there is no mechanism for sharing information with police when double-doctoring is suspected.

"Our recommendations reflect the information its members have gathered from professionals, community groups and individuals directly affected by this drug," said Beverley Clarke, chair of the OxyContin Task Force. "The task force believes a comprehensive approach will help address the numerous issues arising from the misuse and abuse of OxyContin and other narcotics. A collaborative effort is necessary to achieve and sustain long-term results."

The report offers 50 recommendations including the need for further education and prevention initiatives, additional treatment options, harm reduction strategies and legislative amendments.

Government intends to act immediately on several recommendations including the implementation of tamper-resistant prescription pads, continuing education for health professionals and youth and establishing provincial guidelines for methadone treatment. Other recommendations will require further analysis added Minister Elizabeth Marshall.

The Department of Justice supports recommendations relating to policing including continued focus on law enforcement training and allocation of police officers. "Policing plays a significant role in drug prevention, enforcement and investigation," stated Minister Tom Marshall. "The Department of Justice remains committed to providing officers with the proper training to strengthen the fight against not only OxyContin abuse and related crimes, but for all controlled substances."

"The long-term strategy for drug abuse prevention and education in schools will be developed as part of the Department of Education's Safe and Caring Schools Initiative," said Tom Hedderson. "This initiative, through interagency cooperation, provides leadership to schools on matters relating to substance abuse, violence and other health and safety issues."

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador established the task force in response to concerns about OxyContin abuse put forth from law enforcement, health professionals, community advocates and the media. The task force was a collaborative partnership of the Departments of Health and Community Services, Education and Justice.

The final report of the task force is available on-line at . http://www.gov.nl.ca/health/publications/.

See additional coverage from the CBC here: CBC News: Give police medical info to curb 'hillbilly heroin': Report.

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