New regulations have been swiftly introduced in response to concerns about the growing black-market trade in controlled drugs, particularly opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl in the Cayman Islands. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Gent enacted these regulations under the Misuse of Drugs Act, aiming to address the potential of an American-style opioid crisis and the abuse of prescription medications.
The new regulations, effective immediately, prohibit refills on a range of controlled drugs, including painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and drugs for conditions like insomnia and attention deficit disorder. These medications can now only be dispensed with a handwritten prescription, limiting the supply to 30 days’ worth of painkillers.
Dr. Gent also requires pharmacies to maintain a log of controlled drugs prescribed by each doctor to facilitate auditing and the identification of anomalies.
One primary concern prompting these changes is the issue of ‘double doctoring,’ where individuals obtain multiple prescriptions for controlled drugs from different physicians, filling them at various pharmacies without detection.
While Dr. Gent’s objectives to curb illegal street dealing and address addiction have been praised by the medical community, there are concerns about the rapid and broad implementation of the regulations without prior consultation with doctors. Some argue that the requirements may adversely affect patients, especially those with long-term medical conditions, financially and otherwise.
Despite negative feedback, Dr. Gent is determined to act responsibly with the importation and prescribing of potent medications, aiming to improve data collection, analysis, and safety. He envisions a common prescribing and dispensing system, similar to those used in other countries, that could red-flag duplicate prescriptions from multiple doctors and enhance the monitoring of controlled drug use in the Cayman Islands.
These changes mark the first-time enforcement of the chief medical officer’s powers to introduce regulations for controlling the prescribing of controlled drugs in the Cayman Islands. Dr. Gent emphasizes his accountability for public health and the need to prevent potential abuse of the healthcare system.