A Tantallon, N.S., doctor accused of trafficking tens of thousands of prescription pills was not flagged by the province's prescription drug monitoring program.

Bridgewater police announced drug trafficking-related charges against Dr. Sarah Dawn Jones, 35, on Wednesday. She is accused of prescribing 50,000 oxycodone and oxyneo pills to one patient, who never received them.

Nova Scotia passed legislation in 2005 to create the prescription drug monitoring program, which Health Minister Leo Glavine says does a good job. Medavie Blue Cross administers the program.

Glavine was at a loss Wednesday to explain why the drug monitoring program did not flag the massive over-prescription being alleged in the Jones case.

One-off situation?

"There can be those one-off situations that are very puzzling and certainly are not what we want," he said.

"We are in the process of moving to a just-in-time monitoring. Presently you can go 30 days before the data is entered into the system, but now we have our pharmacies moving over to that just-in-time tracking and I feel that's going to be certainly a stronger version of the prescription drug monitoring."

The drug monitoring program's manager, Kevin Lynch, said he could not comment directly on the charges involving Jones.

"We're monitoring drugs listed on the Canadian Drugs and Substances Act. It is a fairly lengthy list of drugs associated with that — your hydromorphone, oxycodone, stimulants would be on the list of drugs that would be monitored."

In 2012, the program launched eAccess that allows doctors and pharmacists to check a patient's drug profile online with a health card number, information that is accessible 24 hours a day, he said.

Lynch said the program regularly shares information with licensing authorities for doctors, dentists, pharmacists and nurses. That information includes patients seeing multiple doctors in a 30-day period and patients who have been charged with drug trafficking offences.

Collective effort

Dr Sarah Jones

Dr. Sarah Jones is facing a number of drug trafficking-related charges. (Calnen Photography/Dalhousie University)

"Ultimately we all have responsibilities in the process of prescribing and dispensing," Lynch said. "It is a collective effort we all have to make."

In 2014, three family doctors in Nova Scotia were sanctioned by the College of Physicians and Surgeons for overprescribing narcotics, such as hydromorphone, to patients.

A pharmacist notified the drug monitoring program about one of the doctors. Lynch interviewed Dr. Philip Davis and referred the case to the college.

Neither Davis nor the two other physicians, Dr. Stephen Harley of Dartmouth and Dr. Trevor Locke of Truro were charged by police. They did receive various disciplinary sanctions.

Lynch said the prescription drug monitoring program receives 350 to 500 requests annually from law enforcement agencies for information connected with criminal investigations.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed comments made by Kevin Lynch, the drug monitoring program's manager, to Aaron Veinotte, a spokesman for Medavaie Blue Cross, which administers the program.
    Feb 26, 2016 11:27 AM AT