Nova Scotia to review prescription drug monitoring program in wake of charges against doctor


Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine says his department will be instituting a full-quality review of the province’s prescription drug monitoring program days after a doctor was charged with trafficking prescription medication.Bridgewater Police have alleged that Dr. Sarah Jones prescribed 50,000 oxycodone pills to one patient, who never received them.A pharmacist in Bridgewater, N.S., actually had to notify the authorities because the province’s prescription drug monitoring program didn’t catch the irregularities.Its alleged Jones prescribed 50,000 pills to a patient who never received them @globalhalifax— Natasha Pace (@NatashaPace) March 7, 2016“With the licensing authorities, we’re in regular contact with pharmacies. They can make inquiries of us and we can make inquiries of them,” program manager Kevin Lynch said.“We all play a role in the process and we all have certain elements that we’re able to bring to the table, and we’re all in constant communication.”

Bridgewater Police have alleged that Dr. Sarah Jones prescribed 50,000 oxycodone pills to one patient, who never received them.

Calnen Photography/Dalhousie University

The program collects the doctor’s name, pharmacist information, patient data and type of drug for every prescription in the province. Lynch says every case is different and won’t say exactly what would cause a doctor or patient to be flagged. Story continues below

Tamara Ballard knows firsthand the dangers of prescription drugs. In October 2011, she lost her son, Josh, to an accidental overdose. She says she is shocked by the allegations against Jones.“It infuriates me to think that a physician can do something like this,” Ballard said from her home in Dayspring, N.S.Tamara Ballard has some serious questions about the province's prescription drug monitoring program @globalhalifax— Natasha Pace (@NatashaPace) March 7, 2016Ballard is a nurse and actually worked with Jones at a satellite clinic of the South Shore Regional Hospital when Jones was still a medical student at Dalhousie University in 2005.“When I saw her face on the newscast it just took my breath away,” she said.According to Ballard, the volume of drugs that police allege Jones was trafficking breaks down to 83 pills a day, and wonders why it wasn’t flagged under the monitoring program.“Eighty-three pills a day for one person is absolutely astonishing. If a client or a patient is a maximum of 12 pills a day, there should be red flags going about — 83, it’s unheard of.”Ballard, who is member of GPDOTS (Get Prescription Drugs Off The Street), says the entire prescription drug monitoring program needs to be overhauled.The group recently wrote to Glavine, the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Nova Scotia Prescription Monitoring Program to ask for answers in the case and call for a review.“We have Nova Scotia taxpayers paying close to $1 million for a prescription monitoring program that clearly is not flagging where it needs to flag,” Ballard said.“For one physician to even write that magnitude of medications for one client, there should have been at the very least, a flag sent to [the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons]. How it went on for 20 months, we have no idea.”Glavine called the allegations against Jones “disturbing” and told Global News on Monday his department will conduct a review to see what it missed.“We’re gathering a tremendous amount of data but do we have the personnel to discern patterns and trends that are there,” he said.Jones, 35, left her job at the Crossroads Family Clinic in Upper Tantallon in January and her medical license is currently suspended.She is scheduled to appear in Bridgewater provincial court on May 11 to answer to the charges against her.

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