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This article was published 24/11/2016 (1059 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Fentanyl test kits removed from a pharmacy’s shelves may not be 100 per cent accurate, but they could help prevent deaths, a Winnipeg pharmacist says.
Michael Watts started selling the kits at Brothers Pharmacy on Selkirk Avenue in late October but removed them within days after the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba ordered him to.
Since then, at least five people in Winnipeg have died from suspected fentanyl overdoses.
The college has not changed its opinion on the matter.
The college said it’s concerned about the accuracy of the test kits, which are used in B.C.
Health Canada has approved the $10 kits for detecting fentanyl in urine, but not in street drugs such as cocaine or crystal meth.
The college fears the tests could give false negatives by missing the presence of fentanyl. A false negative will incite an addict to increase a drug dosage out of a false sense of security, according to the college.
"It comes down to policy-makers being naive about what false negative would do to a user," Watts said.
"A false negative does not lead to more drug being used whereas a positive could lead to fewer deaths. We’re dealing with policy-makers who don’t understand the nature of the beast," Watts said.
He said a false negative means the addict will only take the drug in the normal dosage.
"It’s frustrating. Everyone’s just worried about liability."
In a statement, the college said it’s seeking more information from the manufacturer, Health Canada and colleagues in B.C., where Insite, a safe-injection site, uses the kits to test drugs for opioids.
At Insite, a small amount of street drug is mixed with water, and narrow strips of paper change colour if the opioid is present. That was how Watts was selling it.
Watts has been told a drug such as cocaine is cut with fentanyl because the opioid is cheaper. So drug users end up taking the potentially lethal opioid without knowing it.
Watts has no plans to defy the college.
Brothers Pharmacy will use the kit to test a urine sample if someone believes they have taken fentanyl.
"We’ve had two or three people come in," Watts said.
Updated on Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 5:51 PM CST: Fixed headline
November 25, 2016 at 7:24 AM: Edited