I had the privilege of attending the CAPT 2017 Professional Development Conference in Toronto May 5-7, 2017. Attended by pharmacy technicians from all across Canada, this conference had something for everyone. CAPT includes their sponsors and exhibitors in all of their sessions, which makes them feel very welcome.
CAPT provided sessions on some of the most pertinent issues that technicians are dealing with – MAID, opioid addictions, methadone and Suboxone programs, and mental illness. Additionally, some of the tried and true topics, such as diabetes, obesity and compounding provided solid education.
The support by pharmacy technicians of medical assistance in dying through the selection and preparation of the medications required for the MAID protocol has caused an ethical dilemma for many within the pharmacy community. There are strict regulations supported by federal legislation and provincial guidelines to ensure that vulnerable people are protected, while those who choose voluntary end of life can do so with dignity. Choosing to participate or not in MAID is a personal choice, and must be respected both by participants and conscientious objectors. We have a duty to care for our patients, without judgment on their choices or those of our co-workers.
Methadone is widely used to treat addiction to opioid drugs such as heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Methadone itself belongs to the opioid family of drugs. Methadone treatment for addiction follows the philosophy of harm reduction. It is a slow acting drug with a long half-life. It can take 5-7 days to reach steady state within the body, and is broken down by the liver. The dose must be titrated very slowly to prevent overdose, thus methadone treatment begins with observed dose taking. The patient signs a contract agreeing to the terms of the treatment. While the patient learns the rules, and the healthcare team learn how the drug works for the patient, both gain trust in each other. Ultimately, the goal is to treat the addiction.
A newer treatment is a combination drug called Suboxone. It is a sublingual tablet used for opioid-related disorders. Suboxone contains buprenorphine, an agonist, which works like an opioid, and naloxone, an antagonist, which reverses and stops the opioid effects by blocking the receptors. Buprenorphine reduces withdrawal and naloxone blocks the effects of opioid medication, but the drug must be taken sublingually, by the nasal route or intravenously. The success rate when using Suboxone to treat addictions is much higher than any other treatment.
Chris Cull, Inspire by Example, told his story of addiction and his journey to full recovery. He has made it his mission to communicate how prescription drug abuse has affected Canada. His website, http://www.inspirebyexample.ca/ tells the story about how he beat opiate addiction and spends his time telling others through documentaries and films about the addiction problem in this country and how they, too, can conquer it.
CAPT, the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Technicians, is a national organization that provides an influential voice, leadership and support to pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff facilitating practice excellence contributing to positive health outcomes. Their website is at http://capt.ca/ Next year’s CAPT conference will be held in Whistler, BC, at the Westin Hotel. Save the date! May 4-6, 2018.
Diane Reeder, PTSA Advocacy Director, is a pharmacy technician, living and working in Calgary.