time to curb access to prescription drugs

Prescription drug addiction is a persistent problem in the Yukon. Like other insidious addictions, this one has tragic outcomes.

Prescription drug addiction is a persistent problem in the Yukon.

Like other insidious addictions, this one has tragic outcomes. People die, families are destroyed and children are rendered wards of the state.

It costs the health-care system, the justice system, police … frankly, it costs a lot.

And, it is almost entirely preventable.

There is little reason for widespread prescription drug addiction in the Yukon. Or anywhere, for that matter.

There is a relatively simple solution.

And if executed well, it could put the territory on the cutting edge of a modern health-care in the nation.

The Yukon should establish a territorial drug database, accessible to every pharmacist and doctor and frontline health worker in the jurisdiction.

There is little reason why such a system is not in place.

Some would cite privacy concerns.

Such concerns are, frankly, piffle.

Currently, a person’s prescription drug history is already stored by private businesses — Shoppers Drug Mart, Wal-Mart or the neighbourhood pharmacy.

Nobody seems too concerned about handing their name and phone number to the pharmacist, who then has, at their disposal, access to every drug you’ve bought in that shop.

And, for many, that information is also known to the government or the private business that you submit your drug receipts to for compensation from your drug plan.

For that matter, the private insurance company you deal with has a pretty comprehensive list of the drugs you purchase.

That’s a pretty wide list. Not very private.

In fact, the only people who don’t have access to your drug history — what you are taking, when you were last prescribed and what you might be allergic to — are the doctors who have to prescribe them to you.

Does that make sense?

Ten years ago, before broadband internet became so common, such a database would have been impossible.

Today, a central health database, accessible to every health professional with a laptop and the proper security code, should be easy to establish.

Log into the central Yukon health-care site and you would have access to a patient’s drug history.

Suddenly, it would become clear who had been prescribed what, when and why.

The days of issuing multiple prescriptions of Tylenol 3 would be over.

And, emergency room doctors and nurses would know, in a minute, what drugs a patient might be taking, whether they were conscious, or not.

With such a database in place, the days of addicts fishing for painkillers and sleeping pills from a variety of ill-informed sources would wane.

The territory has enough troubling problems. This one is relatively easy to fix.

The government should do so. (RM)