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Ontario minister ‘profoundly’ disappointed by federal oxy decision

Wednesday November 28, 2012

Ontario’s health minister says her government is “exploring all options” to keep generic oxycodone out of the province, in light of the recent federal government decision to allow generic versions of the drug to be sold in Canada.

Deb Matthews told Wawatay News that she was “deeply and profoundly disappointed” with federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq’s decision to allow generic oxycodone in Canada.

“This was an opportunity to really address a problem,” Matthews said. “I’m very, very disappointed.”

On Nov. 19, Health Canada Minister Leona Aglukkaq told her provincial and territorial counterparts that she would not politically interfere with the regulatory approval process for a generic form of OxyContin.

The decision allows drug manufacturers to develop a generic form of the drug once the patent for it expires on Nov. 25.

The federal government then approved six pharmaceutical companies on Nov. 26 to produce the drug.

Meanwhile the Ontario government proposed new regulations to limit the use of generic oxycontin unless it is tamper resistant. In a press release the government said the regulations will help “limit access to easily abused generic oxycontin, protecting patients and those who may be addicted to prescription drugs.”

Matthews has also written a letter to other provincial and territorial ministers informing them of the steps Ontario is taking, in the hopes that other health ministers across the country will follow suit and help limit access to generic oxycontin.

“Obviously the best thing would have been for the feds to say no,” Matthews said. “This is a national problem that requires a national solution.”

First Nations leaders, police organizations, doctors and pharmacists have also spoken out against the federal decision to allow generic oxy in Canada.

Last week Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s deputy grand chief Alvin Fiddler said the decision was “another blow” to northern First Nations.

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

Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services (NAPS) has also chimed in, saying the federal government has to “take the leadership role it was elected to do” in the prevention of generic oxy in Canada.

In a media release, NAPS said OxyContin severely impacts the First Nations it serves, where addiction rates are much higher on a per capita basis than in southern Ontario.

This year alone, NAPS has seized illicit OxyContin drugs valued at over $1 million.

“The market for these drugs in northern communities is so lucrative that criminal organizations from the Greater Toronto Area are targeting the NAN communities,” the release said.

To add insult, the federal government has informed NAPS that it will no longer fund the Police Officer Recruitment Fund (PORF) after March of 2013. Eleven NAPS officers are funded under PORF including a drug enforcement officer.

NAPS said allowing generic versions of OxyContin to be produced and “ultimately be illegally distributed to our communities” while simultaneously reducing NAPS funding and its ability to do drug enforcement “flies in the face of logic.”

Matthews said the voices of First Nations leaders across Ontario have been loud and clear on the need for action on prescription drug abuse (PDA).

“(PDA) is a problem everywhere, but the toll is particularly devastating in First Nation communities,” she said. “Some of the most passionate arguments I have heard have come from chiefs and leaders in First Nations communities.”

The health minister added that she hopes her federal counterpart changes her mind on letting generic oxy into Canada. But in the meantime, Matthews hopes other provincial and territorial ministers will follow Ontario’s lead in limiting the sale of generic versions of the drugs in their jurisdictions.

“We will continue to explore all the options,” Matthews said. “I feel I owe it to all the people who have stepped forward to share their stories to do everything in my power to limit access to this drug.”

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