Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Health, sent a letter to her provincial colleagues concerned about the increasing deaths of people suffering from addictions and using a poisoned street drug supply. Clearly, the government strategy to deal with overdoses and deaths by severely limiting prescriptions for opiate medications to chronic pain patients and others has not worked. Of course, most of us knew it would not work because substance abuse is not fuelled by those getting prescribed for pain. The research is crystal clear. Health Canada’s policy of prohibition did nothing for the overdose problem but, instead, added suffering to the lives of pain patients, demonized both them and their medicines, and stigmatized them to the point where doctors have abandoned them altogether. It has also increased the death toll. Instead of one crisis with one population, they have created two.
The minister’s new strategy as expressed in a letter to her colleagues is to make prescription grade opioids available to those addicted to protect them from the dangers of street drugs. We applaud any strategy that will help to keep patients safe and alive. However, how about keeping pain patients safe and alive? Where is there an announcement and strategy for this?
It should be quite evident to Health Canada that they have failed in their attempts to deal with the ever increasing overdose deaths and that they have simultaneously harmed pain patients to incalculable measures. In light of all of the harm that has been done, we are calling upon them to:
- Make a public apology to pain patients. Why? Because when you have promoted gross distortions of the truth, and caused so much destruction and suffering, it’s the right thing to do. Health Canada must position itself on the side of evidence, and intentionally identify the overdose crisis is not the result of medically managed pain patients.
- Rescind the 2017 guideline. We know this was not based on evidence or facts. There is no one size fits all. All pain treatment decisions including medication should be between physician and patient.
- Health Canada must demand that all 13 regulatory colleges provide an achievable plan to immediately restore medical care to legacy patients and provide adequate care to new patients. Regulatory colleges must redeem the fundamental principle that every patient be treated as the unique individual they are, with their own unique and individual needs.
It is time to move forward and make things right by allowing doctors to practice sound, evidence-based medicine.