Pharmacist tells trial of concerns with Dr. Sarah Jones's prescribing

A Nova Scotia pharmacist testified Tuesday she was concerned about unusual opioid prescriptions being written by Dr. Sarah Jones, but was ultimately reassured they were OK by the province's prescription monitoring program.

Jones is accused of fraud and unlawful possession of oxycodone. The doctor, who practised in Tantallon, N.S., is on trial in Bridgewater provincial court before Judge Timothy Landry.

Bridgewater Superstore pharmacist Jessica Wolfe testified she would receive faxed prescriptions from Jones for one of her patients, Merle Chase.

Wolfe had concerns about dosage changes and quantities, which she found "a little unusual." She said she discussed it with Jones.

Prescriptions filled early

Some of Wolfe's concerns included oxycodone prescriptions for Chase sometimes being filled early. If the pharmacy was running low on opioids, Wolfe said Jones would ask how much was in stock and write a prescription for that amount.

Wolfe said Jones preferred to write prescriptions for whatever quantity of opioid pills the pharmacy had available — as opposed to the pharmacy "owing" Chase pills and calling him when the supply was in.

Wolfe said Jones wanted it that way so it would be less confusing for him. Wolfe agreed that Chase, who has cognitive limitations, would find that less confusing.

Wolfe contacted Nova Scotia's prescription monitoring program about her concerns. The program collects data about prescriptions for certain drugs and aims to prevent their misuse. The program reassured her and she said she was satisfied.

Jones faces lesser charges

Jones had been accused of prescribing thousands of opioid pills for Chase but instead sending them elsewhere. The most serious charges against her — trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking — were dropped last week.

Crown attorney Josh Bryson said last week there wasn't a realistic prospect of conviction on the trafficking charges, since he couldn't prove the drugs were not delivered to the patient in question. Jones still faces charges of fraud and unlawful possession of oxycodone.

Another Crown attorney said Tuesday it's "probably unlikely" the Crown will detail where they believe the unused prescriptions ended up, because the focus shifted once the trafficking-related charges were dropped.

"We moved away from the idea of calling evidence on where the oxycodone actually went," Jill Hartlen said outside the courtroom.

Wolfe is one of three pharmacists who testified Tuesday. There wasn't enough time for a fourth pharmacist to testify Tuesday, so she'll appear when the trial resumes on June 12.

The CBC's Elizabeth Chiu live blogged from provincial court.