Statement by Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews on Generic OxyContin
Today Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, issued the following statement on the federal government's decision to approve generic OxyContin:
"I am profoundly disappointed in Minister Aglukkaq's decision to ignore the threat to public safety posed by generic OxyContin and to allow it to enter the Canadian market.
National problems require a national solution. Provincial and territorial health ministers unanimously asked for federal help, but have once again been told that it's a provincial problem.
The most effective way to prevent a renewed addictions crisis is to ban generic OxyContin entirely. That's why in July, I wrote Minister Aglukkaq to urge her to use her powers to protect public safety and ban generic OxyContin from entry into Canada. The prospect of making a cheaper formulation more widely available is a matter of grave concern, threatening the safety of individuals and the population at large. If the Government of Canada had truly wanted to do what was in the best interests of all Canadians, it could have stopped these drugs from being readily available.
Prescription OxyContin has wreaked havoc on too many Ontario families. It is associated with a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related deaths and a 41 per cent increase in overall opioid-related deaths. The social costs of allowing generic OxyContin have been 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.
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. I'm asking other concerned Canadians to join me in this call.
Ontario has already taken strong action to address prescription drug abuse, including:
- Monitoring and tracking access to narcotics and other controlled substances through our Narcotics Monitoring System.
- Providing $15 million to increase access to treatment for people addicted to opioids, including pregnant women and mothers.
- Educating prescribers and partnering with the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, to create treatment guidelines for front line workers, doctors and nurses.
- Working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to identify communities in need of additional resources for addictions treatment.
- Providing expanded access to alternative treatments, such as Suboxone.
- Improving access to addictions programs for people in remote communities through the Ontario Telemedicine Network.
- Closely monitoring ERs, ConnexOntario, Public Health Units and addiction treatment programs for changes in opioid trends.
Given the federal government's decision, the McGuinty government will redouble our efforts and explore every option to limit the availability of generic OxyContin."