Canada Approves Generic Oxy

By McCarton Ackerman 11/20/12

The Health Minister's decision has provoked massive outcry from provinces and tribes already pummeled by painkiller addiction.

Health minister Aglukkaq's decision has
upset many Canadians.
Photo via

Amidst extreme controversy, Canada's federal government allowed the approval process to proceed Monday for the generic form of the addictive painkiller OxyContin. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq was not swayed by protests from the country's aboriginal communities and a plea from Canada’s provinces, which unanimously requested a delay of approval until regulators could further examine oxycodone abuse. “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,” said Deb Matthews, Health Minister of Ontario, the one province looking to ban the drug entirely. Matthews says that OxyContin has led to a fivefold increase in oxy-related deaths, and that the social costs of allowing generic oxycodone could amount to about $500 million a year in Ontario alone. However, federal laws don’t allow regulators to ban a drug just because some people abuse it, Aglukkaq argues; she also believes that banning OxyContin would have little prevention effect. "Banning a generic version of one drug would do little to solve the actual problem,” she wrote in a letter. “There are almost 100 authorized drugs in Canada that are in the very same class of drugs as OxyContin. Banning all these drugs because they have the potential to be addictive would help dry up the drug supply for addicts, but would lead to pain and suffering for patients who desperately need them.” Aglukkaq says she would be open to new regulations to restricting OxyContin if abuse continues to mount after next year. Currently, in some northern Ontario tribal reservations, more than half the adult population is addicted to prescription drugs.

Below the border in the US, the FDA has repeatedly postponed the approval of generic OxyContin in the face of widespread protests by advocates and politicians, although many pain doctors argue that since only a small percentage of patients abuse the drug, the benefits of making the drug far more affordable through generic versions outweigh the risks. Some reports suggest that the agency is poised to approve knockoff Oxy as early as January 2013. This month, nine public health organizations sent a letter to the FDA asking it to approve only an "abuse proof" time-released formulation of the painkiller.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.