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Health officer advises B.C. to offer smokable fentanyl in report backing safer supply

VANCOUVER — A review of prescribed safer supply programs in B.C. says the province should increase the range of drugs available to include smokable fentanyl and other substances.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says in her report that the province should work with drug makers and distributors to expand choices for those at risk of overdose.

The report says an “ethical analysis” of prescribed safer supply concludes that interventions to reduce certain or severe harms are justified, even if it means there may be “uncertain harms” to the broader population.

Henry’s review also says the province should stop calling the program  “prescribed safer supply,” and instead refer to “prescribed alternatives” to toxic supply. 

The review says there needs to be “substantial increases” in supportive and low-income housing because of the link between poverty and homelessness with “problematic” drug use. 

Henry’s review says concerns over diversion of prescribed opioids should be viewed as a failure to meet the needs of people who use drugs, who may trade or sell prescribed hydromorphone for more powerful substances such as fentanyl.

The report says 4,331 people have access to prescribed safer supply, a small fraction of the at least 115,000 people with opioid use disorder in B.C., leaving the majority of drug users at risk of death from the toxic illicit market.

The report was issued after Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of opioids and other drugs in B.C., under a three-year exemption from Health Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2024

The Canadian Press


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