Alberta doctors given new rules for prescribing opioids

Alberta physicians will soon have to check the medical histories of their patients before prescribing opioids, benzodiazepines, stimulants and sedatives. 

The measure is part of a new mandatory rule passed Friday by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

"The new standard means there are more checks and balance in place for drugs that are subject to misuse and abuse," said Kelly Eby, the college's director of communications and government relations.

A doctor prescribing one of these classes of drugs will have to check Netcare or the Pharmaceutical Information Network or another independent source like a hospital pharmacy for a patient's current or past prescriptions.

They will also have to write the prescriptions on a triplicate pad which is tracked by the college. 

The new measures are meant to check the practice of people going to multiple doctors to feed a dependence on opioids.

"The new standard means there is more checks and balance in place for drugs that are subject to misuse and abuse," said Kelly Eby, the college's director of communications and government relations.

Physicians also must prescribe the lowest dose that will be effective.

Any deviations from recommended maximum guidelines of 90 morphine equivalents per day are allowed but only if justified based on the patient's assessment and listed on the medical record.

The college also wants physicians to look at other options before prescribing opioids to their patients. 

The new standard of practice comes into effect April 1.

The college started looking at the issue a year ago and put a draft standard out last fall for consultation.