A former New Brunswick health minister says he's worried about the amount of methadone that's winding up on the streets.
Dr. Dennis Furlong's comments follow the death of a toddler on Wednesday, who had ingested methadone at a home in Havelock, in the southeastern part of the province, late last week.
The RCMP is investigating as suspicious the death of the 23-month-old girl, who has not been identified.
It's not know whether the methadone was in the home legally.
Methadone is a synthetic opiate used to treat pain, as well as addictions to opioids, such as heroin, Dilaudid and Oxycontin.
Furlong said he has doubts about the drug's effectiveness in treating addictions and believes a lot of it is being sold illegally.
"I'm very much afraid that a lot of the treatment ends up on the street being sold if they can get it out of the clinic or the pharmacy," said Furlong, who served in the Lord government and has returned to private medical practice in Dalhousie.
About 1,000 people in New Brunswick are receiving methadone treatment through the province's four public clinics, according to the Department of Health.
Normally, clients have to go to a drugstore to drink the liquid in front of a pharmacist. But some clients, who have been in treatment for at least three months and are considered stable, are allowed to take multiple doses home with them.
About 478 patients currently qualify for the so-called carries program, officials say.
The Health Department has no record of the patients being treated at the four private methadone clinics in the province.
"The people who want narcotics have every devious way in the world to trick the physicians and con the physician into writing a prescription," Furlong said.
"I've heard every story in the book — from the dog ate them to the car ran over them. And there's just a large trade out there with brokers who will accept any prescription and give you a certain amount of money for them."
Electronic health records and increased public awareness would help solve prescription abuse, he said.
On Jan. 8, officers and paramedics were called to a home in Havelock, in southeast New Brunswick. Police believe the girl may have swallowed the methadone up to 24 hours before the 911 call was made.
The girl was taken to a Moncton hospital and later flown to IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where she was listed in critical condition until her death Wednesday.
Two people arrested at the home where the child was found were later released. No charges were laid, but police have not ruled out the possibility that charges may be laid in the future.
Police won't say how the two people were connected to the child.
January 15, 2010