It’s now everyday practice for pharmacists to administer flu shots. Could a time come when they play a role in illicit drug testing?
It’s a question the head of an Ontario company that manufactures drug testing strips is asking as Canada grapples with an opioid overdose epidemic.
The small paper strips that can detect fentanyl are currently being used in a pilot project at supervised consumption sites in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
The strips, originally designed to test urine samples, produce a “yes” or “no” response, and are unable to detect the presence of fentanyl analogues like carfentanil.
In Vancouver for a pharmacists’ convention on Thursday, BTNX Inc. CEO Iqbal Sunderani said that potential drawback means drug users should always have supervision when testing.
And he envisions a future when getting that second pair of eyes could be as easy as a walk to the local pharmacy.
“I know that injection sites are far away, but pharmacists are everywhere,” he said.
If pharmacists were involved in the dispensing of such strips, Sunderani said, they could also play an important part in teaching drug users about their limits.
“It’s a matter of having some education there too. Just because it says negative doesn’t mean its 100 per-cent negative,” he said.
Earlier this month, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy said the province was expanding the use of fentanyl test strips to all supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites around the province.
Sunderani said a report on the use of test strips at Insite by Vancouver Coastal Health medical officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn will also soon be complete.