With the patent on OxyContin expiring on November 25, the federal heath minister has to decide if Canada will allow generic versions of the drug. Known by its generic name, oxycodone is an opioid that is chemically similar to codeine and heroin. In 2008, Canada had the second highest per capita consumption of oxycodone.
As a result of the widespread abuse of this drug, the manufacturing company, Purdue Pharma, altered OxyContin to be mostly impossible to crush, chew, snort, smoke, or inject. While not fully tamper proof, it deters potential abusers. The new formulation is called OxyNeo. Oxycodone is highly addictive and causes extreme withdrawal symptoms.
Oxycodone is used as a pain medication in individuals with serious, long term injury. By making it available for generic versions, the price of oxycodone would be lowered. Patients who needed the drug and could not afford it would now be able to use it. The danger is that it would also be more readily available for drug abusers.
The Canadian provincial health ministers have unanimously voiced their disapproval of generic versions. In addition, the Ontario Association of Police Chiefs are in opposition.
The senior medical adviser for Health Canada, Dr. Paul Gully, commented on this issue. “It’s enormously complicated, dealing with the issue of supply on the one hand, but also recognizing the huge challenge on the other hand and why people become addicted.”