OHS Canada Magazine

Ministers call for suspension of OxyContin generics

OTTAWA (Canadian OH&S News)

OTTAWA (Canadian OH&S News)

With the patent for painkiller OxyContin set to expire at the end of November, provincial and territorial health ministers have unanimously agreed to ask the federal government to delay the approval of a generic form of the drug pending further research.

It is a move that could have implications for injured workers using the narcotic painkiller and workers’ compensation boards, which pay for the drug, across the country. The patent for OxyContin — the brand name for controlled-release oxycodone produced by Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue Pharma and used to treat moderate to severe pain — will end on Nov. 25.

While Deb Matthews, Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care, has called for an outright ban on the generic drug, other provincial and territorial ministers have been campaigning for Health Canada to at the very least delay its decision on whether or not to allow generic formulations of OxyContin to be distributed across Canada.

“I understand generic manufacturers may have submitted their products for approval to market in Canada,” Matthews wrote in a letter to Leona Aglukkaq, federal health minister, on July 6. “To the best of our knowledge, generic oxycodone [controlled-release tablets] will not be formulated to be tamper resistant.”


At the beginning of March this year, Purdue Pharma Canada discontinued the drug and replaced it with OxyNEO. The new tablets are more resistant to breaking, crushing and chewing and become gel-like instead of dissolving when in contact with water, making them more difficult to abuse [COHSN, March 26, 2012]. Abusers could modify the drug by crushing the tablets for inhaling or dissolving them in fluid for injecting, which defeats the time-release property that modifies the dosage.

“I strongly believe that we would be doing our constituents a disservice if we allowed these improvements to be eroded by the re-introduction of the non-tamper-resistant formulation to the Canadian market,” Matthews wrote in the letter.

Zita Astravas, Matthews’ press secretary, explained that anybody who had a prescription for OxyContin automatically got transferred to the new, more tamper-proof drug in March, but access to that in Ontario goes through the Exceptional Access Program.

“Anyone who needs access to this drug will continue to get so through their physician, this is just a matter of having a generic, which is a more easily-tampered with pill that was taken off the market,” she said. “At the end of the day, what matters is that people who actually need it will continue to have access to it.”

When OxyNEO was introduced, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board approved its use as a replacement for OxyContin. In 2011, there were about 6,000 workers covered for OxyContin prescriptions, less than 10 per cent of all workers who had a drug bill by the board, the WSIB reported.

Christine Arnott, spokesperson for the board, said that when used appropriately, narcotics should improve a worker’s function and quality of life, and support a safe and sustained return-to-work.

As of February 2010, following a new injury or recurrence, the WSIB only initially allows prescriptions for short-acting narcotics for a maximum of 12 weeks, after which time, clinical staff review the worker’s case regarding ongoing use, Arnott confirmed.

Currently, the compensation board only considers OxyNEO tablets ranging in strength from 10 to 40 milligrams. “Should generic OxyContin become available in Ontario, we will review the new material,” she said.


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3 Comments » for Ministers call for suspension of OxyContin generics
  1. patio says:

    as a mother whose 18 year old son died of an accidental (injested)overdose of this drug. I am pleading with government officials to please ban this substance. When prescribed for pain, patients easily become addicted,and when stolen or sold for recreational use, it is deadly. These kids don’t know what they are getting into, because of the slow release formula,they don’t feel the effects immediately, so take a couple more, then more… you get the picture. PLEASE save more kids and adults from this drug that Purdue swore was not as addictive !!

  2. Pain patient advocate says:

    I do understand how people feel that had problems with their kids that abused this medicine and have died from the orginal oxycontin but real legitimate pain patients have seen the difference. Their pain is not nearly relieved by this new reformulated version.
    I suggest that schools and parents teach the kids that pain medications are not for them to use. That they are dangerous and should never be taken anyone by anyone whom they NOT prescribed. I feel there are many other ways of dealing with addiction instead of catering to addicts by ruining effective medications that were never intended for abuser in the first place. Legitimate pain patients need effective medications and most all them are being ruined and the undertreatment and suffering is continuing because of kids or non prescribed persons.. So this needs to be dealt with another way. Patients should not be left to suffer under under any circumstances.

  3. chronic pain patient. says:

    I understand the people who worry about oxycontin. Yes ththe medication has been in the wrong hands. Through different methods. I myself have been on it now for many years. Upon receiving oxyneo. I found my pain was not being controlled properly. Therefore a titrate was necessary. Now I am finding that due to the fact I am on Ontario disability we will not be covered for the continue just Neo. Which makes no sense to me whatsoever. My understanding was that these 2 medications r identical. The delivery of said meds were different. Well let me tell u. As someone on assistance we r second class citizens. Now this just proved it to me. Until miss Mathews gets a medical degree or god forbid gets an injury requiring medications for pain. She has no business talking about. I’m certainly worried for the amount of plastics I have been ingesting these past months. Do they think that everyone abuses their medications who receive these benefits? Well we all are lumped in together tar n feathered with… but yet the continue is cheaper for the government coffers. But n there is a big but. We on odsp r all painted with the same brush. Well time will tell if continue gets on the streets it will not be from those on said system. Shame

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