As the overuse and abuse of opioids continues to sweep across B.C., South Okanagan pharmacist and business owner Chris Pasin is working diligently in his pocket of the province to prevent and reverse the devastating effects of this health-care epidemic.
As co-owner of several pharmacies based in Oliver, Penticton and West Kelowna with business partner Greg Wheeler, Pasin has witnessed firsthand the increasing use of pain meds, often leading patients down a dark path to addiction and abuse.
“I would ask a lot of people how they got down this road and it was pain management,” notes Pasin. “I could see that there was an issue. We had an over-prescribing problem in the South Okanagan.”
But it wasn’t until he was travelling cross-country to a pharmacy conference, and he got a frantic call from his staff member that a Canadian narcotics inspector was onsite to conduct a surprise inspection that he realized the issue was even more widespread in his community than he initially understood.
“That was a big trigger that something was going on in our area,” he notes.
So when he was hand-selected to serve as the sole pharmacist representative for the South Okanagan’s pain management module of the physician-led Practice Support Program (PSP), he saw his involvement as an opportunity to hopefully have a positive impact on the overall care for chronic pain management and the use and abuse of narcotics.
“It was his years of excellent care, concern about and commitment to this issue well before it was common news that positioned him to be a pharmacist sought after by physicians to support them with their education on the topic,” says Pasin’s business partner and fellow pharmacist Greg Wheeler.
Offering expertise and education on the optimal use of chronic pain medications to different groups of physicians across the Okanagan over the last several years, Pasin has dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours towards the health-care cause close to his heart.
He has also provided insight into developing effective communication and care strategies for chronic pain patients with other supporting professionals, including physiotherapists, mental health workers and the RCMP. Most recently, he was invited by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC to present and participate in its Methadone 101 workshop, an introductory course in the use of methadone for the treatment of opioid dependence.
“We’ve always got to remember that when we affect the patient standing in front of us, Joe’s wife, Joe’s kids, Joe’s parents are affected. It’s not just Joe you’re dealing with,” Pasin says. “Chronic pain has a huge impact with relationships and households. It starts with a bad knee, which leads to unemployment, depression, more drugs, marital issues. It is amazing the cascade effect. If our role helps reverse the cascade, we’ve done an awesome job.”
With his role on the PSP coming to an end, Pasin has expanded his patient care outreach in an innovative, new program he hopes to use as inspiration within the broader pharmacy community.
Partnering with his local family physician (and former South Okanagan General Hospital Chief of Staff) Dr. Peter Entwistle, Pasin provides regular in-clinic medication consultations and reviews, offering patients a comprehensive and collaborative approach to their health care.
“The model that he has helped develop promises to provide a sustainable and patient-focused practical and equitable model of care to patients,” says Entwistle.
Not just interested in growing his business, Pasin hopes to leverage his unique position into gathering evidence-based data to support the further expansion of pharmacists’ scope as integral and well-respected members of primary care teams.
“It’s a huge move forward in the profession,” says Pasin, who has been pushing to expand the pharmacist’s patient care role since entering the field in the early 1990s. “We do med reviews in the store as well, but when you do it in a doctor’s office, then it has some real credibility.”
“Chris has effectively integrated pharmacists into the patient’s circle of care by providing pharmaceutical care at key touch-points in their medical assessment process,” adds Wheeler. “He is demonstrating the importance of community pharmacist input and participation on primary care teams and decision-making committees.”
As Pasin strives to grow this in-clinic, collaborative assessment model, the father of a first-year university student and avid outdoorsman offers a key, and honest, piece of advice for new pharmacy grads starting out.
“It can be a long and boring profession,” Pasin admits. “You’ve got to make something out of it. You’ve got to really find that niche that you enjoy and tap into and make the most of it. That’s really where the job satisfaction is.”