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Eby downplays Danielle Smith’s concerns about diversion of B.C. safe-supply drugs

Vancouver –

British Columbia Premier David Eby is downplaying concerns raised by his Alberta counterpart Danielle Smith about the diversion of safe supply opioids from B.C.

Diversion from the system of prescribed safe supply to prevent overdoses is a “serious issue,” Eby said, but the vast majority of drugs in a B.C. police seizure cited by Smith were not from that program.

Prince George RCMP issued a news release Thursday saying thousands of prescription pills and other drugs have been seized in the past three months.

In that release, spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Cooper said organized crime groups have been redistributing safe supply and prescription drugs, “some of which are then moved out of British Columbia and resold.”

Police did not immediately respond to requests to clarify how police determine pills were diverted from safe supply or how many of these were among the seizure.

Eby said medical professionals who administer safe supply to drug users monitor for risk and “do everything possible to minimize the risk of diversion.”

He also encouraged police to share any information they have about diverted prescribed alternatives with public health authorities.

“If there is a gap in that process we want to address it right away,” he said.

Smith issued a statement on Friday saying she was concerned that diverted safe supply drugs from B.C., including hydromorphone, may end up being trafficked to Alberta, and she cited the Prince George seizures.

“Alberta has been warning for years that diversion of high-potency opioids from these programs could be diverted and trafficked across Canada, potentially causing irreparable harm and death in communities across the country,” Smith said in the statement.

“In Alberta, we have made the provision of ‘safe supply’ illegal to prevent this very thing from happening. Unfortunately, that does not stop organized criminals from bringing it here illegally from other provinces.”

She said she has requested an emergency meeting between the federal public safety and mental health and addiction ministers and her counterparts in B.C. to “stop the flow of these high-potency opioids to Alberta.”

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry released a review of prescribed safer supply programs in B.C. in December.

That review said some safe supply clients report diverting hydromorphone in order “to obtain fentanyl or other substances that adequately address their withdrawal and cravings” or to help others who cannot access the program.

“The impact of using diverted prescription opioids on people at current risk of unregulated drug poisoning remains unclear,” the report said.

It said anecdotal reports suggest that youth may be accessing the diverted drugs, but current B.C. data does not indicate an increase in opioid use disorder among them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2024.

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