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Addiction Experts Concerned About Generic OxyContin

Increased number of prescriptions in border area suggests OxyContin’s illicit use.When OxyContin was replaced by OxyNEO, a tamper-resistant substitute in the United States, prescriptions for the original quadrupled especially close to one of Canada’s highest-traffic border communities.

This is in excess of previous levels and translates to about a quarter of a million pills in Windsor, Ontario alone. 
Open Medicine, an independent and international general medical journal published a study and was able to track down the number of OxyContin prescriptions in Ontario on the Canadian and United States border. They found that the OxyContin prescriptions increased in Windsor at the same time when the drug became unavailable in the United States.  OxyContin is one of the most popular prescription drugs being abused
Researchers claim the findings point towards the drug being used for illicit purposes. Researchers also state that this needs to be the primary reason why the federal government prohibit a generic version of OxyContin on the market once Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ patent expires on Nov. 25.

OxyNEO was Purdue’s replacement of OxyContin and was introduced in Canada and in the U.S. on August, 2010.  OxyNEO is supposed to be more difficult to crush which makes it harder to abuse by injection or snorting.

Open Medicine’s study found that in Niagara Falls and Sarnia prescription rates were steady but increased in Windsor.  According to Tara Gomes, it’s a much more organized acquisition of drugs to sell on the street.  Gomes is the study’s primary author and a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

“The fact that it was so specific to the Detroit-Windsor tunnel indicates there was a select group of people,” she said. “It’s a unique situation, where we’ve seen a medication that’s so prone to drug addiction consequently popular for resale.”

OxyNEO has been placed by tighter restrictions in other provinces. However there are still questions lingering as to how much safer the tamper-resistant version is.  Many experts working in addictions are wary of permitting the generic version of OxyContin in the market.

Ms. Gomes thinks we need to seriously consider the impact generic OxyContin would have on the safety of residents in Canada. “This is a highly sought-after drug, and people will undertake a lot in order to get access to the original OxyContin formulation,” Gomes believes.

Health Canada has been asked by both territorial and provincial and territorial to at least postpone the decision on generic OxyContin until new research concludes whether OxyNEO’s tamper-resistant drug is better and safer. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s spokesman Steve Outhouse said she has no intention of intervening in the drug-approval process. “That’s a decision that firmly rests with Health Canada,” he said. “You can only imagine what would happen in a drug-approval system where you only need to lobby politicians who go under pressure from constituents who want the newest experimental drug released to them before [it has] been shown to be safe.”

Health Canada evaluates drugs for their risk of opiate addiction, but makes that evaluation based only on the drug being used as prescribed according to Outhouse.

Apotex has spent close to $3-million and many years formulating a generic OxyContin.  Jack Kay, Apotex’s president expects approval Nov. 25 and that they have shown Health Canada their generic version is safe and effective.  Mr. Kay also added Apotex has received documents that would legally bind Health Canada to allow final approval.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews argues that if the regulatory framework leaves the federal government’s hands tied, “then the legislation needs to change to make laws that work for the people.

“Allowing generic Oxy onto the streets … would be a huge step backwards,” claims Matthews.

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