Three people face charges in Barrie prescription drug bust
A Barrie doctor says he was shocked to find his office was the centre of a narcotic drug ring.
Kempenfelt Health Centre's Dr. Alain Sacksen said he was first alerted to the potential of false narcotic drug prescriptions – purportedly issued by him – when an officer called from the North Bay police department.
When Sacksen checked his records, he quickly determined the man attempting to collect a prescription for Fentanyl in Quebec was a total stranger.
“I'd never heard of this gentleman. He was not a patient, not in the records,” Sacksen said he told North Bay police. “But it worried me a little bit, so I looked into my records again.”
Sacksen discovered a former employee had created dozens of prescriptions over a five-month period.
Each prescription was for 45 Fentanyl patches or about a two-month supply.
He said the employee had worked for him for about one year, but had left last September, which coincided with when the last prescription was written.
“If it wasn't for the electronic medical records – EMR – she probably wouldn't have been caught. I really credit EMR for breaking up this ring,” he said.
However, he is still reeling from the deception that went on in his office.
“It's a position of trust. I've made a lot of changes. I've always been careful with my prescriptions, but what do you do when it's an inside job?”
Barrie police Sgt. Patrick Brouillard said in an interview three Barrie residents have been charged with 207 charges related to forged documents and trafficking in Fentanyl and one count of trafficking Oxycodone.
He said the street value of the narcotics is approximately $396,000, with patches selling for $150 each in Barrie and twice that amount in North Bay.
Police allege Sacksen's former employee created the prescriptions and the two Barrie men charged were responsible for distributing the drugs.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Brouillard said the woman was the catalyst for the drug ring.
“Without her, the drugs wouldn't be out there," he said.
But he also points out the scheme wouldn't work if the 19 other suspects with health cards didn't pick up the prescriptions at the various pharmacies.
“They would have known, or should have known they were breaking the law,” he said.
Fentanyl is a painkiller said to be 100 times more powerful than morphine. It's believed that the higher cost of other opiates, as well as the tighter restrictions on Oxycodone, have resulted in the abuse of Fentanyl patches.
However, Fentanyl patches are made for 72-hour slow release and scraping and smoking the drug off the patch is a like getting a full three-day hit all at once.
Brouillard said red flags should have gone up for the quantity of such a strong narcotic for patients who weren't usually being prescribed them.
When pharmacists receive narcotic prescriptions – even for well-known customers with serious medical complaints – they should still check with the doctor.
However, because the employee in question worked the front desk and answered the phone to such queries from pharmacies, there was no way to know if the prescriptions were real.
“This is as dangerous as heroin. I'd like to see it treated as seriously,” Brouillard said.
A local pharmacist who asked his name not be used said the Ontario Narcotic Monitoring System that was put in place in April 2012 is helping keep the narcotics off the street, but added there should be tighter restrictions on Fentanyl.
He said doctors should only be prescribing it to cancer patients, not to those who've had a car accident or something else they are expected to recover from.
“People are getting it for a long time, whether they need it or not. I know so many doctors who don't want to cut off patients because they'll go through withdrawal symptoms," the pharmacist said. "We have addiction treatment programs and methadone for that.”
Larry Holt, whose 23-year-old daughter died of a Fentanyl overdose Dec. 19, 2012, said he's relieved when he hears about Fentanyl drug busts, but relives the loss of his daughter each time.
“It's never gone away. It's on both our minds every day,” he said.
The suspects, Julie Baks, 31, Grenville Sinclair, 30 and Raymond Godreau, 41, will make a video appearance in court on Feb. 14.
— with files from Tracy McLaughlin