The Ontario Pharmacists' Association (OPA) has come out in support the provincial government's call for Health Canada to defer the approval of generic OxyContin, a narcotic painkiller.

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Ontario pharmacists question OxyContin generic

November 20th, 2012

TORONTO – The Ontario Pharmacists' Association (OPA) has come out in support the provincial government's call for Health Canada to defer the approval of generic OxyContin, a narcotic painkiller.

OPA said Monday that Health Canada, Canada's national health department, is reviewing applications to allow generic versions of OxyContin (oxycodone) to enter the Canadian market once the Purdue Pharma's patent for OxyContin expires in the latter part of November.

Deb Matthews, Ontario's minister of health and long-term care, issued a statement Monday expressing opposition to Health Canada's decision to move ahead with the review process for the drug, which is highly addictive and has a high rate of abuse and misuse.

"I am profoundly disappointed in [Health Canada] Minister [Leona] Aglukkaq's decision to ignore the threat to public safety posed by generic OxyContin and to allow it to enter the Canadian market," Matthews stated, noting that "the most effective way to prevent a renewed addictions crisis is to ban generic OxyContin entirely."

OPA agreed with Matthews' view that Health Canada must first determine if the introduction of generic OxyContin will lead to the same public health issues that arose through the misuse and abuse of OxyContin before it OKs a generic version of the drug.

"OPA and its members are concerned with and do not support the introduction of any generic version of OxyContin because it may contribute to a growing and well-documented public health crisis related to abuse and misuse of a powerful and addictive analgesic," the association stated. "In addition, Ontario's pharmacists are concerned that the re-entry of this highly sought-after formulation of oxycodone will lead to a resurgence of pharmacy armed robberies and break-ins, which have been on the decline in some Ontario jurisdictions since OxyContin was phased out."

According to Matthews, prescription OxyContin "has wreaked havoc on too many Ontario families." She stated that the drug is associated with a fivefold rise in oxycodone-related deaths and a 41% increase in overall opioid-related deaths and that the social costs of allowing generic OxyContin are estimated at $500 million a year.

"Patients who legitimately need pain medication have many other options, including OxyNeo, which addictions experts have found to be tamper-resistant," she explained. "Police chiefs and pharmacists agree that generic OxyContin poses a public safety threat and should be banned. I urge the federal minister of health to reconsider her decision and do what is best for the health of Canadians."

OPA said it has advocated for interprofessional collaboration in chronic pain management and for the government and health care providers to step up the rollout of tools that could better monitor the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances, such as electronic prescriptions, a drug information system and interoperable electronic health records.

"Pharmacists are aware that there are many chronic pain sufferers who are calling for the entry of generic versions of OxyContin, citing a much greater analgesic profile over that offered by OxyNEO," OPA stated. "It is for these patients whom pharmacists and prescribers must work collaboratively to more effectively manage chronic pain."

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