Newfoundland’s pharmacy network to stem prescription drug street sales

Newfoundland and Labrador’s recently launched Pharmacy Network hopes to decrease the sale of prescription drugs on the street and reduce adverse drug interactions, especially for those with complex drug therapies, like senior citizens.

“(Currently), medication information is fragmented across pharmacies and hospitals,” said Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. “Information is collected at each pharmacy, but health professionals at other locations can’t see it.”

They need this information to get a complete picture of a person’s medical profile to help make decisions when providing medications or medical care, he said. This will help stop “double-doctoring” which can happen accidentally when a patient is seeing two doctors, or when a patient seeks multiple prescriptions for the same drug for sale on the street.

“One of the problems being faced in all jurisdictions in Canada I believe, certainly in Newfoundland and Labrador, is the availability of prescription drugs at the street level for sale,” said Osborne. “The network will also serve to reduce the number of adverse drug interactions because health care professionals will be able to see what a patient is taking.”

It’s helpful for seniors who may be on many medications, according to Margot Priddle, project manager, Pharmacy Network.

“Seniors face increase incidence of adverse drug reactions, just based on the fact that the senior is on an average of four to six meds with all kinds of health complications going on,” said Priddle. “So they are a difficult group for treatment and it’s more difficult if you don’t have the information to work with.”

In its final stage of production, Pharmacy Network will be one of the first electronic medication prescribing networks, she said.

“From a technology perspective, we will probably be breaking new ground in the fact that this is a provincial initiative for the full province,” said Priddle. “Within Canada there is electronic prescribing occurring, but it is more occurring in hospital environments.”

The project will cost $25 million over four years. The Department of Health and Community Services will contribute $8 million and Canada Health Infoway will provide the other $17 million.

“The payback on drug systems is fairly quick,” said Bob Serviss, group director, Infoway. “In other words, you can see the payback in probably three to four years on these systems.”

Serviss said that once the solution has been created it could potentially be used by other jurisdictions, eliminating the cost to create something similar.

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