In response to the alarming rise in violent pharmacy robberies, the Ontario College of Pharmacists is taking steps to mandate the use of time-delayed safes to store narcotics in the province’s 4,700-plus community pharmacies.
At its most recent meeting, the College’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the development of a province-wide standard that would require the use of time-delayed safes, and prominent signage highlighting their use, in all community pharmacies. The standard will be brought to the Board at its March 2023 meeting and, if approved, will come into effect immediately.
A time-delayed safe has a digital timer that prevents access until a pre-set time has elapsed after the correct combination has been entered.
“We’ve heard from law enforcement that thieves rely on getting in and out of a pharmacy quickly and knowing that narcotics are kept in a time-delayed safe is considered to be a strong deterrent to targeting the pharmacy,” said James Morrison, Chair of the College’s Board of Directors. “Evidence from other provinces shows the universal use of time-delayed safes and awareness strategies have a significant impact on reducing pharmacy robberies and the harms they bring.”
The universal use of time-delayed safes, along with signs and other public awareness efforts, has proven to be an effective robbery deterrent in other jurisdictions such as British Columbia and Alberta. Saskatchewan is also set to move forward with a similar requirement.
In Ontario, the province-wide use of time-delayed safes is strongly supported by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, local police departments, the Ontario Pharmacists Association, and various corporate and independent pharmacy stakeholders.
Pharmacy robberies can have a serious impact on the physical and mental well-being of staff and patients and can lead to reduced access to pharmacy care for patients whose pharmacies have been directly affected. Additionally, prescription medications obtained through pharmacy robberies are a contributor to the illicit opioid drug supply in Ontario communities.
“The College’s Board thoughtfully considered this important issue as a matter of public interest in order to help stem the tide of robberies in pharmacies and the impact they have on those who experience them,” adds Mr. Morrison. “We want all pharmacies to remain safe places for pharmacy professionals to work and for patients to visit in order to safely access the care they need. And we also want to help make our communities safer by keeping stolen prescription medications off the streets.”
The College will now consult with pharmacy and system stakeholders as it develops the standard and implementation plan. Further details are expected to be shared in advance of the March 2023 Board meeting.