US Braces for Canadian Oxy Invasion
With Canada approving a generic version of Oxy, the White House warns of a possible influx of the easily-abused pill.
Generic versions of OxyContin are set for release in Canada next month, and the White House has issued a warning to US border control and law enforcement to prepare for a possible surge of pain pills crossing the Northern Border. In November, Canada approved a non-abuse-resistant generic formulation of the addictive opioid-based pain medication, which health experts believe will be in high demand from addicts in the US—contributing to the painkiller epidemic sweeping both countries. "The potential exists for diversion into the United States because the old formulations, which are easier to abuse, are unavailable in the United States," says the warning. "This alert seeks to raise awareness of this change with law enforcement along the Northern Border so law enforcement and border officials can work jointly to prevent diversion." In the US, painkiller overdoses are responsible for more deaths than heroin, cocaine and all other illegal drugs combined, with the annual death toll reaching 15,000 in 2009. And many fear an influx of non-abuse-resistant Oxy could increase the already staggering numbers. "We've got a big problem coming up here," said April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. "It's horrifying to think of what's going to befall us when these drugs hit the market."
In the US, the FDA has repeatedly postponed the approval of generic OxyContin due to protests by advocates and politicians concerned about rising rates of painkiller abuse. However, many doctors argue that only a marginal percentage of patients abuse Oxy, so the benefits of releasing more affordable generic versions would outweigh the risks. In November, nine public health organizations sent a letter to the FDA asking it to approve only an "abuse proof" time-released formulation of the painkiller. Copies of another pain pill that is often abused—Opana—may also become more widely available in 2013 unless the FDA intervenes. A spokesman for the FDA says the agency "understands how important it is to give guidance and appropriate support regarding the development of abuse-deterrent formulations of opioids and also recognizes the important role that generic drugs play in our health-care system."