Kamsack doctor charged with improperly prescribing opioids

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Kamsack doctor charged with improperly prescribing opioids

A doctor in Kamsack, Sask., who lost his ability to prescribe methadone is now charged with improperly prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines to patients, some of whom other physicians were concerned may have been selling or giving the drugs to other people. 

Dr. Murray Davies is facing two charges of unprofessional conduct under The Medical Profession Act. The province's regulatory bodies for doctors, Saskatchewan's College of Physicians and Surgeons, brought forward the charges last week. 

A hearing date has not been set. 

According to the registrar, Davies is a general practice doctor at the Assiniboine Valley Medical Centre in Kamsack, a town of roughly 1,800 near the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border. 

CBC News has reached out to Davies for comment.

Bryan Salte, associate registrar and legal counsel for the regulatory body, said charges of improper conduct stemmed from his pattern of prescribing, tracked by the college's Prescription Review Program. 

Patients selling or giving away drugs

The program monitors how "higher risk" drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, are being prescribed. 

According to the college, Davies was informed of its concerns around his prescribing, including that some of his patients were already receiving drugs from other physicians, while other patients were not actually taking the drugs.

"Dr. Davies, according to the charge, was advised by other physicians that patients to whom he was prescribing drugs were not taking those drugs, that they were otherwise being diverted, which could include sales to other people, which could include sharing their drugs with others," Salte said. 

"The concern that was expressed, according to the charge, is that Dr. Davies, upon being advised that his patients were not using the drugs fully the way that he had prescribed them, didn't change his prescribing pattern."

Allegations about Davies' prescribing behaviour is detailed in length by the college. 

Lack of proper assessments, improper dosages 

The college says it has evidence Davies prescribed medications to patients without performing a proper assessment, including for substance use disorder and, in some cases, prescribed medications to patients on methadone with a history of substance use disorder. 

The regulatory body also alleges Davies continued prescribing these higher risk drugs to patients whose urine samples showed they were not ingesting them. The college says in other cases, the samples showed the patients had other drugs in their system and Davies prescribed more, increasing the risk of harm. 

As well, the college says Davies prescribed quantities of drugs and in combinations that failed to meet medical standards and did not maintain proper records for patients. 

Salte would not provide specific details about the investigation or the number of patients who received prescriptions. 

A preliminary investigation was conducted by a special committee, which recommended the charges, he said. 

Health Minister responds

Saskatchewan's Health Minister called the case a concern. 

"Opioids are a huge issue across the country right now so when you hear those sorts of things, it's troubling," Jim Reiter said Thursday. 

He said they have faith in the disciplinary process in place for doctors under the college's authority. 

Methadone-prescribing ability revoked

This is the first time the college has brought forward charges against Davies. 

However, Salte said it previously recommended to Health Canada that Davies should not be allowed to prescribe methadone, which resulted in that ability being revoked in 2014. 

Health Canada authorizes a physician to prescribe methadone, which is a painkiller used to treat opioid dependence.

Without providing details, Salte said the college recommended Davies not be given that ability based on concerns about his prescribing of methadone. 

Now, the college alleges Davies has been prescribing Kadian, an opioid used to treat pain.  

"Kadian is not a treatment for addiction and maintaining the patient on their relatively high dosages of opoids is not consistent with the medical standards of the profession," said Salte.