By Melissa Ridgen
Health Canada has pulled the plug on a methadone doctor who APTN Investigates exposed last year.
Dr. Murray Davies ran the methadone program in Kamsack, Saskatchewan, located on the SK/MB border, 80 kilometres north of Yorkton. In April 2013, APTN Investigates’ episode Questionable Pharma featured Aboriginal patients who claimed they were over-prescribed opiates and once hooked, were shuttled into the same doctor’s methadone program. Some said they routinely failed drug screens but got their methadone anyway. All had concerns the methadone program wasn’t being properly run and complained they weren’t being weaned off the program.
Bryan Salte of Saskatchewan’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, the organization responsible for licensing and monitoring physicians, said Health Canada’s decision to not renew Dr. Davies’ methadone authorization was due in part to a recommendation from his organization.
“The college suggested he not have his authorization renewed,” Salte said.
The college’s Prescription Review Program monitors all patients who are prescribed opiates, methadone, and benzodiazapines in Saskatchewan, as well as the physicians who write such prescriptions.
“We advise physicians if we have concerns with patient use … and if we have concerns about a physician’s subscribing we can ask for an explanation,” Salte explained.
The program is designed to help doctors, not police them, he said, adding that it’s “almost exclusively an educational process”.
Salte wouldn’t get into specifics of what led to college to recommend to Health Canada that Dr. Davie’s methadone licence not be renewed this year.
“Certainly we let Dr. Davies know what our concerns were, why we decided we wouldn’t be giving our support for his (methadone prescribing),” he said.
Salte said the doctor is still licensed to work in Saskatchewan and can continue his family practice if he chooses.
Last year there were 170 patients from Cote, The Key and Keeseekoose First Nations that surround Kamsack. In 2012 Health Canada spent $223,000 for them to be part of Dr. Davies’ methadone clinic.
News of the doctor being stripped of his methadone license caused panic yesterday. Wednesdays are methadone clinic day at the hospital.
“Everyone is worried they’re cutting people off or cutting them down and moving (the clinic) to Melville or Fort Qu’Appelle, so the methadone addicts are freaking out,” a relative of a patient told APTN Investigates yesterday.
Sunrise Regional Health Authority had to scramble to operate the clinic yesterday, bringing in methadone-prescribing doctors from elsewhere to write prescriptions.
Sharon Tropin, spokeswoman for the Sunrise Health Region, said a contingency plan is in place to ensure methadone patients aren’t cut off cold turkey and a long-term plan will be formulated with the help of the College of Physicians and Surgeons.