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Minister Aglukkaq announces new rules to address prescription drug abuse

Calls on provinces, territories and medical professionals to also take action

OTTAWA, Nov. 19, 2012 /CNW/ - To launch National Addictions Awareness Week, today the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, and Shelly Glover, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, announced tough new licencing rules that aim to clamp down on the diversion of controlled release formulations of oxycodone products - prescription drugs that are at a high risk of abuse.

In a letter to her provincial and territorial counterparts, the federal Minister of Health called upon provincial and territorial governments, as well as medical professionals, to look at what they can do within their areas of jurisdiction to tackle the serious problem of prescription drug abuse.

"Our Government is taking action to tackle prescription drug abuse," said Minister Aglukkaq. "This is a serious issue that destroys the lives of individuals and families, and I believe we have the responsibility to work with the provinces and territories to address it head-on."

Under the authority of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), Health Canada will now impose tough new conditions on the licences of dealers who manufacture and distribute products that contain the controlled release formulation of oxycodone.  For example, dealers will be required to report spikes in sales and changes in distribution patterns, in addition to Health Canada's current requirements to report loss and theft. If evidence of abuse is uncovered, action can be taken, up to and including the revocation of their licence to deal in certain types of medications. If required, matters could be referred to legal authorities.

"Real action is required at the provincial and territorial level, too," added Minister Aglukkaq in the letter.

Federal action is only one component of tackling prescription drug abuse.  Medical practitioners who prescribe drugs fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.  Accordingly, Minister Aglukkaq strongly encouraged provinces and territories to speak with their local medical associations about the topic, and to strengthen provincial and territorial practices to fight prescription drug abuse, which include establishing training requirements, setting scopes of practice for physicians and other practitioners, and monitoring prescription practices. Similar controls, including a prescription monitoring program, have been applied by Health Canada in recent years to the Non-Insured Health Benefits program for First Nations and Inuit, which is administered by the federal government.

There is no basis in the Food and Drugs Act for the Minister of Health to withhold approval of a drug where the drug is otherwise considered safe and effective for its recommended use. The law does not permit approval to be withheld on the basis of misuse.  In the letter, Minister Aglukkaq confirmed that she would not politically interfere with Health Canada's scientific review process concerning generic controlled release formulations of oxycodone.

"It should not be up to politicians to determine which drugs should be approved for medical use," said Minister Aglukkaq. "The issue of prescription drug abuse is bigger than one specific pill, and I want to make sure that legitimate patients have access to drugs that Health Canada scientists determine are safe and effective when used as directed."

The Minister concluded the letter by stating that if provincial and territorial governments agree they are unable to control this issue within their own jurisdiction, she is open to considering additional oversight at the federal level to further combat the risk of drug diversion. However, the Minister cautioned that requiring doctors, dentists and pharmacists to jump through extra federal bureaucratic hoops could create challenges for patient care.

"I want to make sure that whatever we do to crack down on prescription drug abuse does not have unintended negative consequences on those who need this medicine to maintain a reasonable quality of life," said Minister Aglukkaq. "Instead of a band-aid solution, I believe we can apply the law as it currently exists to help make meaningful changes to the overall system, and make it harder for people to abuse prescription drugs." 

Également disponible en français

SOURCE Health Canada

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