Feds reject plea for OxyContin ban
OTTAWA—The federal government has rejected provincial pleas to delay or deny approval of the generic form of OxyContin, a highly-addictive pain-killer that has been widely-abused in many small towns and remote First Nations’ reserves.
Instead, Health minister Leona Aglukkaq said Ottawa will tighten licensing rules so distributors of oxycodone have to keep better track of where the drug goes.
Aglukkaq also is telling the provinces to use their own power over doctors and pharmacists to crack down on wayward prescriptions.
“Banning a generic version of one drug would do little to solve the actual problem,” Aglukkaq said in a letter to provincial and territorial health ministers.
“There are almost 100 authorized drugs in Canada that are in the very same class of drugs as OxyContin,” she noted.
“Banning all these drugs because they have the potential to be addictive would help dry up the drug supply for addicts, but would lead to pain and suffering for patients who desperately need them.”
Ontario Health minister Deb Matthews has led a public campaign to pressure Ottawa to reject approval of generic oxycodone, saying failure to ban the drug would lead to a flood of the narcotic and a corresponding surge in addiction.
The generic version is set to win federal approval Nov. 25—the day the patent expires on Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin.
But the federal government has pushed back, saying a ban on the knock-off drug is too simplistic a response to a complex problem of prescription drug abuse.
Ottawa said it does not want to politicize a bureaucratic process that automatically must approve a drug if it is an exact copy of another brand-name drug that already has been approved.
“I do not believe that politicians should pick and choose which drugs get approved,” the minister wrote.
Aglukkaq also admonished provincial politicians for pumping up the benefits of OxyNeo—Purdue’s new brand-name form of oxycodone that some believe is harder for addicts to abuse because it is not as easily crushed or injected.
“It’s important to remember that OxyNeo is, to date, not authorized to make claims that it is ‘tamper-proof,’ ‘tamper-resistant,’ or ‘harder to abuse,’” Aglukkaq said.
“As health ministers, I want to stress that it’s very important that we not make health claims that the drug company itself is not legally allowed to say.”