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Responsible opioid prescription use essential

I would like to provide some additional information and context RE: No more suffering in silence (July 20th, 2019), a column by Brian McLeod, St. Albert resident.

I would like to provide some additional information and context re: No more suffering in silence (St. Albert Gazette, July 20), a column by Brian McLeod, St. Albert resident.

Across our health system, there are Albertans who live with the burden of chronic or severe pain. This is a debilitating and complex medical condition for those Albertans and many of them receive care at Alberta Health Services (AHS) sites and programs, and many of these patients have or do use opioids in the course of their care.

In all care settings, it is critical that physicians and healthcare teams prescribe using opioids responsibly, and provide appropriate care to those with opioid use disorders.

I would like to provide some additional information regarding the role of Alberta Health Services (AHS) in supporting physicians and other prescribers caring for these patients.

In Alberta, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) oversees all matters related to licenses to practice medicine, professional ethics and professional competence. This includes appropriate prescription of medication and other treatments. 

Under no circumstances does AHS interfere in the clinical decision making process between individual physicians and their patients, and supports physicians’ professional obligation to advocate for patients and freely express concerns regarding our province’s health system. 

AHS and our leaders work closely with the CPSA and other professional colleges to support clinicians in providing the best possible care. In some cases, this includes providing additional training and advice when requested. For example, AHS has created a telephone consult service for physicians and other prescribers seeking advice regarding safe prescribing and treatment of patients with opioid dependence.

Additionally, AHS also partners with the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine in providing education programs for physicians to use opioids and related medications appropriately. 

When used appropriately, opioids can play an important role in many patients’ care journey. However, there can be significant risks in the use of these medications and AHS will continue to work with physicians to provide appropriate support and education.

Francois P Belanger M.D. FRCPC
Vice President, Quality and Chief Medical Officer, Alberta Health Services