should be prescribed less in Guernsey
21 September 2012
Ed Freestone said the aim was to protect the island’s community
Used medically as a painkiller or anaesthetic
Can be hundreds of times more potent than morphine
Known as synthetic heroin, can be dissolved in water and injected
Estimated lethal dose of pure fentanyl is 2mg
Suppresses breathing reflex: overdose can lead to coma and death
Guernsey’s chief pharmacist has called for a powerful painkiller to be prescribed less often over concerns of its use by illegal drug users.
Fentanyl is usually given to people experiencing chronic pain but is used by drug users as an alternative to heroin.
Ed Freestone said the move followed discussions with health professionals and law enforcement agencies.
He said the drug would still be prescribed if a patient needed it.
Mr Freestone said: “It was originally developed as an allergenic and pain killer and used for anaesthesia in the 60s and then it was developed into a transdermal patch, which is used to treat pain in patients who have got cancer or a malignant pain of some sort.”
He said the patches were a great alternative to injections for delivering opiate pain relief over a 24-hour period.
Mr Freestone said: “Guernsey seems to be at the high end of prescribing rates, we can find no demographic or explanation other than we seem to be high prescribers.”
He said in discussions with doctors, pharmacists, nurses, police, the border agency, drug and alcohol strategy and the clinics for drug addiction they discovered Fentanyl was the main cause of opiates in the island.
Mr Freestone said: “We have a very heroin-free island so obviously therefore this was becoming the main source for opium addicts to get their highs.
All clinicians are being asked to review their choice of these patches particularly, rather than it being the first choice… and there are some alternatives around.
“It’s not saying don’t use them as sometimes it’s going to be the right choice.”
He said it was not clear how the drugs were going from legitimate users to drug users, but “as many ways as you can think of are probably possible” including the possibility that people were selling on their prescription drugs.
Mr Freestone said while the cost to the health service was important his primary concern was protecting the public health of our community.
He said: “Prudent use of this drug will do two things. It will do the more important thing… of addressing the availability of an item which is feeding abusive drugs in our community at the same time it does another good, which is helping us ease the pressure on the drugs bill.”