Federal government funds interdisciplinary program to curb opioid misuse

Monday, October 19, 2015

Opioids are important but potentially dangerous pain-management substances that, if misused, can result in addiction, withdrawal, injury, or death.

Dr. Feng ChangSchool of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Feng Chang (left) from the Faculty of Science has received $720,330 in Health Canada funding for the Interdisciplinary Initiative to Reduce Prescription Opioid Misuse.

Statistical evidence show that opioid use and misuse are significant concerns in Canada. Each year, Canadian pharmacies dispense more than 30 million opioid pills or transdermal patches – nearly one for every person in the country, according to a 2014 study in Canadian Family Physician.

Dr. Chang’s project, also known as the Opioid Education Partnership, aims to provide a continuing education program that answers those questions. The Partnership will deliver learning modules that connect the frontline professionals in opioid prescribing: physicians and pharmacists.

We’re focusing on collaboration between the two primary practitioners facing this problem. We aim to provide care and be humanistic. At a basic level, the goal is to create a supportive network of people providing care together,” said project co-investigator and Assistant Clinical Professor Tejal Patel.

The program will provide practicing physicians and pharmacists, as well as students and trainees of each profession, with evidence-based instruction from prescribing guidelines, best practices, misuse prevention strategies and more. As more and more Canadians receive opioid prescriptions to manage pain, it is increasingly important that healthcare providers are informed and have access to practice tools that leverage the expertise of various professions.

 It’s not that there are no tools addressing this issue,” says Dr. Chang. “Phone lines have existed for ages. But the Opioid Education Partnership is unique in its focus on strengthening the physician-pharmacist relationship. We aim to create a sense of interprofessional collaboration and peer support that both professions can rely on when dealing with the practice challenges that arise from working with opioids."

Working with co-investigators Dr. Agnes Kluz of the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health and Rosemary Killeen, Director of Distance Education and Continuing Professional Development, the research team plans to deliver that ongoing support through an online peer-mentoring forum. The digital venue for questions and guidance will particularly benefit practitioners in rural and small communities where they might otherwise be isolated.

Once developed, the program may also be embedded into interprofessional education curricula at the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy, further ensuring that Canada’s future healthcare professionals are confident in their knowledge of opioids.

The Partnership includes the following groups: