Statement - Doctors deliberate physician role in addressing Canada's prescription opioid crisis

HALIFAX, Aug. 24, 2015 /CNW/ - Today, Canada's physician leaders participated in an education session on the harms of prescription opioid medication, featured at the Canadian Medical Association's annual meeting in recognition of a growing crisis.

Canada's doctors have an important role when it comes to preventing and addressing the harms associated with the use of prescription opioids. This morning, physicians from across the country showed leadership in confronting the issue head on and exploring how they can help prevent the associated harms.

As prescribers, doctors have a fundamental role in helping to ensure safe and effective use of these drugs, and deterrence of abuse. Physicians assess patients and consider whether a prescription is clinically indicated according to best practices, as well as whether the benefits outweigh the risks, while screening for risk factors for substance dependence and diversion.

As health system leaders, physicians are concerned that the opioid crisis continues to take hold in regions across our country. No community, city, province or territory is immune. The unfortunate reality is that no single level of government, no single health provider group and no single sector of our society can resolve this complex crisis on its own.

A comprehensive national strategy is needed to address the harms of prescription opioid abuse in Canada. Such a strategy must involve all levels of government, and must go beyond police and enforcement to include availability of pain management and addiction treatment. The federal government has an important role in a national approach, not only because it holds the regulatory levers for the pharmaceutical industry but in recognition of the scope of this issue.

A critical tool for health care providers – presently not available – is a prescription monitoring system that would allow prescribers to have real-time access to a patient's medication history. Nova Scotia is one of the few jurisdictions advancing on such a tool.

In our effort to prevent the abuse of prescription opioids, we must not forget that these are legal products intended for legitimate therapeutic purposes, essential for the alleviation of suffering — particularly in cancer treatment and end-of-life care.

  • Dr. Chris Simpson
    President, Canadian Medical Association


SOURCE Canadian Medical Association

For further information: CMA Media Relations,, 613-806-1865


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