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New guidelines for patients using opioid medications

July 6, 2017

In reaction to the ongoing opioid crisis, ACP is providing support and direction to pharmacists for assessing patients who use opioid medications.

The ACP Standards of Practice provide the framework for assessment and documentation, however due to the complex issues surrounding the use of opioids, additional clarification is needed.

These medications potentially pose a significant hazard to patients and to the public and, in addition to pain management, pharmacists must be prepared to deal with the possibility of addiction, misuse, and drug diversion.  

As well, recent changes to the Canadian Guidelines for Opioids for Non-Cancer Pain and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta standards for Prescribing Drugs with the Potential for Misuse or Diversion will affect how pharmacy professionals practice.

Summary of guideline requirements

To support the practice of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, ACP Council has approved a guidance document that outlines the following five key requirements:

  1. Pharmacists must establish and maintain a professional relationship with each individual using opioid medications.
  2. Pharmacists must complete a thorough assessment of each individual who is prescribed opioid medications or sold an exempted codeine product. This assessment must include a review of the Electronic Health Record (Netcare) every time a prescription for an opioid medication is dispensed or sold.
  3. Pharmacists must document details of the assessment in the patient record of care and develop a written treatment plan for individuals using long-term opioid therapy or for those determined to be at high risk of misuse or addiction.
  4. Pharmacists must collaborate with the prescriber and other healthcare professionals involved in the care of individuals using opioid medications.
  5. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must monitor individuals for the signs of opioid misuse, diversion or addiction and take appropriate action.

The guidelines will become requirements of all pharmacy professionals starting October 1, 2017.

First Steps

Strong pharmacy practice comes from a strong knowledge base. The document, Guidance for Assessment and Monitoring: Individuals Using Opioid Medications, will provide you with a wealth of information including links to tools, guidelines and resources for your practice.

“We know a lot of pharmacy professionals are already practicing this way,” said ACP Deputy Registrar Dale Cooney. “For others, implementation of these guidelines may seem challenging. A good first step is to focus on one area at a time and develop workflows and strategies for your pharmacy team. Pharmacists have a responsibility to assess and monitor all patients taking opioid medications.”

Over the next few weeks, ACP will publish a series of articles in The Link to help you navigate the new guidelines and provide tips to aid with implementation.

 Read the guidance


Originally published in the July 6, 2017, issue of The Link

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