Pain Medications in Prison

Authority Prince George Regional Correctional Centre

When Jim was a young man he was in a serious car accident that caused permanent nerve damage to his neck. Jim’s medical records documented this condition and the various treatments his doctors tried, including prescriptions for a number of nerve-specific pain medications. Shortly before Jim was incarcerated, he was a passenger in a vehicle involved in another accident that aggravated his condition. When Jim saw a doctor at the correctional centre he was told that he would not be receiving the nerve-specific pain medication he had been prescribed at the time of his arrest.

When Jim contacted us, he explained that the medication he was provided in prison in place of his previous medication was not working. He told us that he could barely move without pain and that he could only manage to sleep a few hours a night. Despite making many follow-up requests for a reassessment of his condition, Jim had not been seen again by the doctor. He did not understand why a doctor who barely knew him or his condition would decide to change the medication he had been prescribed by other doctors for a well-documented medical condition.

Given the pain Jim said he was experiencing we investigated his allegations immediately. We were informed that the centre followed established protocol in providing Jim’s care and that he had seen a doctor who determined the best treatment for his condition. The centre’s medical staff acknowledged being aware of Jim’s medical history and what medications he was taking at the time he was arrested. The centre explained that its doctor had decided not to allow one of these prescriptions because it was not an acceptable medication in the prison setting due to the potential for misuse. The centre also explained why it believed the medication he was denied was not suitable for treating the pain Jim was experiencing.

As we were unaware that any medication had been determined to be not acceptable in the prison setting we asked the medical service provider for the basis of its decision. In response the provider clarified that we had been misinformed and that there were no medications deemed unsuitable for use in prison. We were told that medication needs assessments were conducted patient by patient and that, if required, any medication could be prescribed and administered.

The medical service provider decided to reassess Jim’s needs. It had a different doctor conduct a new assessment with the result that Jim had the dosage of one of his medications increased and was provided a new medication for his pain. When we spoke with Jim after this second assessment he acknowledged that he was once again able to sleep through the night, his pain had decreased and other symptoms had lessened.

Category Corrections, Health
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2015
Location The North