$5 Fentanyl Drug Test Blocked By Pharmacy Regulators

By Victoria Kim 11/01/16
A pharmacy in Manitoba was ordered to stop selling a drug testing kit that could detect fentanyl.
$5 Fentanyl Drug Test Blocked By Pharmacy Regulators

A pharmacy in Manitoba, one of Canada’s 10 provinces, recently decided to stock drug-testing kits that could detect fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that has increasingly turned up unexpectedly in batches of street heroin in the U.S. and Canada, resulting in more overdoses. 

Brothers Pharmacy planned to sell the $5 drug testing kits to allow users to check if fentanyl, which is many times stronger than heroin, was added to their drugs.

But the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba—the pharmacy regulatory and licensing authority in Manitoba formerly known as the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association—told the owner of Brothers Pharmacy, Michael Watts, to discontinue sales immediately “due to the possibility of false negatives” and because the test is not approved by Health Canada for use in the manner intended by Watts.

The kits, which come as test strips, have been used at the Insite clinic in Vancouver to check street drugs for fentanyl contamination since July, according to CBC. A small amount of the drugs is dissolved into water, and a test strip is dipped to check for fentanyl. 

After just one month of testing street drugs at Insite, they found that 86% of the substances tested positive for fentanyl.

But since the test strips are “strictly approved for urine samples,” the College of Pharmacists says they are not a valid method for fentanyl detection. The association insists it is only trying to stay on the safe side, defending its decision to ask the “pharmacy not to sell the test kits for a purpose that may not be appropriate.”

Watts told CBC that though he’s none too thrilled with the College’s decision, he’ll work in the meantime with regional health authority Vancouver Coastal Health—which runs Insite—to gather more information on the test strips.

“I don’t necessarily like it, but I have to respect the college’s ruling and I’m going to do whatever I can to gather data and provide a service that I think is important to the people of Winnipeg and Manitoba,” Watts told CBC. 

“Were not going to get rid of fentanyl. It’s going to be here probably to stay, unfortunately.”

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