Drug testing strips should be available in pharmacies, advocate says

A harm reduction advocate in Kamloops is calling on pharmacies to make drug testing strips available for purchase.

'Pharmacists are the most accessible health care professionals in our community'

ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes said he thinks Kamloops pharmacies could have drug testing strips available for purchase as early as the end of November. (Radio-Canada)

A Kamloops harm reduction advocate wants to see drug testing strips available for purchase in pharmacies as soon as possible.

Bob Hughes, the executive director for ASK Wellness in Kamloops, said making these strips more easily available could save lives.

"If we can get [drug testing strips] into the hands of people who don't want to go into a place like ASK Wellness, or Interior Health but feel comfortable going into a pharmacy and buying a test kit, taking it home and before they consume the substance they can sample it and find out whether it actually is what they think it is, that may act as a prevention tool," Hughes said.

As of now, drug testing strips can be bought online, but Hughes said if pharmacies sold them, they'd be more accessible for everyone.

Hughes said ASK Wellness is hoping to partner with Manshadi Pharmacy in Kamloops to make these test strips easy to buy.

"We were partnered with ASK Wellness from the beginning of this [fentanyl] crisis," said Missagh Manshadi, a pharmacist and owner of Manshadi Pharmacy.

"Pharmacists are the most accessible health care professionals in our community; they are very well-suited to help this population."

While Hughes and Manshadi both believe these strips should be readily available, they do admit there is room for error with them.

"The issue I think is around liability," Hughes said. "It is not fail safe. It could come back negative but there could still be other [substances] in the bag."

Manshadi said he has reached out to other health care professionals to find out how to handle the potential liabilities associated with selling drug testing strips. 

With files from Daybreak Kamloops