British Columbia

Methadone advocates rally at Vancouver pharmacy

A methadone advocate group is asking the College of Pharmacists to investigate the relationship between a national pharmacy chain and a Downtown Eastside hotel owner.

Demonstrators protest Pharmasave relationship with controversial landlord

A methadone advocate group is asking the College of Pharmacists to investigate the relationship between a national pharmacy chain and a Downtown Eastside hotel owner.

On Wednesday, about three dozen methadone users demonstrated outside the Pharmasave at Broadway and Willow Street.

They say methadone prescriptions filled at Pharmasave are sent to George Wolsey, a landlord who has been accused of evicting tenants who don't order their prescriptions through him and offering kickbacks to those who do.

The protesters are calling for an overhaul to the methadone system, including protection for patients who make complaints against doctors and pharmacies. They are also asking for methadone to be delisted as an illegal drug and treated as a medicine.

"Because Pharmasave agrees to work with him and make those deliveries to his place and give him authority over other people's methadone, it means those people have a lack of choice of where they can go to get that methadone," said Vivienne Bessette with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users.

Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang says he's hopeful the city will have an effective way of dealing with methadone abuse soon. The city formed a methadone task force last summer following complaints from users in the Downtown Eastside.

Jang said pulling the business licenses of pharmacies which abuse the system may be the way to go.

"These are real serious allegations. As a health care professional myself, I have seen and heard these abuses go on for many years," Jang said.

"And more importantly for us, we keep hearing from people methadone is a medication. Methadone is one of the best ways of  getting people off heroin. We have to make sure they get their medication appropriately."

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