Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there is a “serious problem” with the illegal use of the painkiller OxyContin, but the feds admit addicts often become hooked through legal prescriptions.
The government has been under fire since Monday, when Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she would not bar applications from companies that want to produce generic forms of OxyContin.
Police groups, health organizations and the Ontario government oppose generic Oxy.
“The government can only act in terms of forbidding products based on their legal use,” Harper said.
Aglukkaq said she is willing to “sit down” with provincial and territorial ministers to discuss prescription pill abuse, but there are no concrete plans.
She also said some physicians over-prescribe, and there are currently pharmacy fraud investigations underway in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
OxyContin was manufactured by Purdue Pharma but was pulled off the market in March in favour of a new company’s formula. Purdue’s Oxy patent expires Sunday.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae says Aglukkaq has the power to delay generics from the market when there is a “public health crisis.”
Mark Lindsay, a 31-year-old recovering OxyContin addict in Vancouver, says generics will be a “disaster.”
“(Addiction) can happen to anybody,” Lindsay said. “Anyone will tell you, even crack addicts, that OxyContin opioid addiction is the worst addiction.”
Lindsay, a former financial advisor, said he has spent the last three years rebuilding his life. Addiction took over “completely” and caused him to defraud clients for cash to pay for pills.