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NAN decries feds' decision to allow generic oxy in Canada

Tuesday November 20, 2012

NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said Health Canada’s decision to open the market to create a less expensive OxyContin is “another blow” to the First Nations communities battling the prescription drug abuse epidemic.

“With OxyContin clones on the market, it just means more drug flow to the north,” Fiddler said in a media release.

In a letter to provincial and territorial ministers dated Nov. 19, Health Canada Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she would not politically interfere with the regulatory approval process for a generic form of OxyContin, allowing drug manufacturers to develop a generic form of the drug once the patent for it expires on Nov. 25.

Despite hearing heartbreaking stories of the drug destroying the lives of individuals and families and the letters from provincial and territorial health ministers calling for her to intervene – including Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews – Aglukkaq said it is not for politicians to choose which drugs get approved.

“The law does not permit approval to be withheld on the basis of misuse,” she wrote.

She said banning a generic version of one drug would do little to solve the problem of prescription drug abuse but would instead “lead to pain and suffering for patients who desperately need them.”

Fiddler is disappointed with Aglukkaq’s refusal to intervene and urges the minister to delay the decision until more research is done with an emphasis on the potential social impacts of the generic drug’s approval.

“While we appreciate the minister’s distinction between science and politics, NAN First Nations are experiencing extreme levels of addiction and require extreme solutions,” he said.

Instead of banning the drug, Aglukkaq announced the federal government will impose “tough” new conditions on the licenses of dealers who manufacture and distribute products that contain the controlled release formulation of oxycodone, the key ingredient to OxyContin.

In a media release, Matthews said she is “profoundly disappointed” in Aglukkaq's decision.

“The most effective way to prevent a renewed addictions crisis is to ban generic OxyContin entirely,” she said. “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.”

In 2009, NAN declared a state of emergency across all of its 49 communities due to prescription drug addictions. Earlier this year, Cat Lake First Nation declared its own state of emergency, saying it could not provide essential services to its members due to the extremely high rates of prescription drug addictions.

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I worked in a health care

I worked in a health care facility. OxyContin prescription was almost non-existent in our community. But there was abundance of illicit dealings in the community regarding Oxy. How tougher are the new conditions going to be? And still today, lots of oxycontin is in abundant circulation illegally.

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