City workers gaming benefits plan for Viagra, Fentanyl should be fired: Toronto mayor

by David Keelaghan28 Oct 2016

Image by: Alex Guibord on Flickr

City workers found to have misused their drug benefits plan should lose their jobs, according to Toronto Mayor John Tory.

This comes after a report from Toronto’s auditor general revealed numerous cases of “excessive quantities” of erectile-dysfunction medications and opioids being claimed by municipal employees.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Tory was unequivocal on what the consequences should be for those found to have abused their benefits plan.

“Anybody who is found to have defrauded the system should be dealt with very harshly and I would suggest that termination is an appropriate kind of penalty for that sort of thing,” he said.

In a report to the city’s audit committee, Toronto Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler analyzed reimbursement data from 2013 to 2015, discovering repeated instances of workers making “potentially excessive claims.”

Most troubling to City Hall will be the occurrences of opioid use, with Canada currently in the midst of a health crisis brought on by a raft of Fentanyl overdoses.

Through her research, Romeo-Beehler found that 27 claimants received the same prescription opioid at different pharmacies on the same day. Later she discovered 16 people who had amassed a 2-3 year supply of the potent painkiller oxycodone over the course of a year, while 32 people had between 19 months and six-and-a-half years’ worth of Fentanyl patches.

British Colombia declared a public health crisis in April following the revelation that there had been a 74% increase in fentanyl-overdose deaths in a year.

The problem reaches far beyond the West Coast, however, with Health Canada announcing in August that the highly-addictive painkiller was now being found in a variety of other street drugs across the nation. 

The more common abuse of the city’s benefits system came through claims for erectile dysfunction medications. Romeo-Beehler’s report revealed that the city spent $1.9 million on drugs such as Cialis and Viagra between 2013 and 2015. Five people were each reimbursed over $5,000 last year and 37 people submitted claims for over $3,000.

The City of Toronto doesn’t have a maximum coverage limit on erectile dysfunction drugs, but this may change as the report indicated savings could reach up to $750,000 if a $500 annual cap was put in place.

“We cannot, in a circumstance where we’re trustees of the public’s money, allow it to (be) abused whether it’s for Viagra or any other drug or any other purpose whatsoever,” Tory added.


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