By Dan Walton
The owner of a local pharmacy has been hailed for his innovative efforts in curtailing opioid abuse.
Chris Pasin, who owns several Remedy’sRXs including the one in Oliver, has been a pharmacist for 26 years, and he’s helping his colleagues adapt to the evolution of pain treatment.
“We used to just dispense medicine,” he said. “Now we’re expected to play a much more active role in patient health care and their well-being.”
Promoting that rationale in depth won Pasin this year’s Ben Gant Innovative Practice Award.
“Things are going in the right direction, no doubt,” he said. “But we still have to get people in the old school of thought to change the way they think – pharmacists, patients, doctors, everyone.”
The current model leads to many patients to depending strictly on pills to deal with chronic pain, he said.
“It’s not just pills that will help people, they need physiotherapy and lifestyle changes. All forms of professionals need to be on the same team.”
But the cost comparison between a bottle of pills and an appointment with a councillor or physiotherapist will be a tough challenge to overcome.
“For $30 you can have a month supply of oxycodone, whereas it costs $45 to $50 per appointment at a chiropractor,” Pasin said.
Also, it’s generally more common for workplaces to cover prescription medications than other treatments, he stated.
“Medications are definitely the go-to covered product.”
And while excessive opioid use became increasingly problematic for years, Pasin said the rate of prescription drug abuse has gone down in the South Okanagan. That’s partially thanks to an Interior Health initiative he led on family medicine. His educational programming for treating chronic pain with narcotics is what helped win him the innovative practice award.
“Doctors are becoming more educated,” he said. “The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia have gotten involved as well.”
It’s also important to prevent patients from resorting to illicit drugs. Drugs purchased through an underground economy are often facilitated in basements or garages without any methodical consistency, he said, and potencies can drastically vary. And with fentanyl tainting illicit drug markets in recent years, overdose deaths are being reported in record numbers.
Before last November, there had never been 100 overdose deaths in a single month in British Columbia. Since then, there haven’t been less than 110 deaths in a month.
“(The fentanyl crisis) has to have a finish but who knows when that will be. I don’t think it will be the near future,” he said.
To Pasin, the most frustrating aspect of opioid abuse is how preventable it is.
“Every pharmacist can say they’ve witnessed it – somebody who treats a sore knee, sore back or minor ailment has that turn into a major drug problem. But these are manageable and avoidable. We know it doesn’t have to turn into a drug problem.”