Six major drug companies can now roll out knockoff versions of OxyContin despite warnings from doctors, pharmacists, police chiefs and provincial health officials.
Sandoz Inc., PhamaScience Inc., Teva Canada Ltd., Cobalt Pharmaceuticals, Apotex Inc., Laboratoire Riva Inc. can now market generic forms of the popular painkiller, known on the streets as “hillbilly heroine.”
The approvals flow from a Health Canada review of applications from drug companies wanting to produce the opioid medication, first marketed by Purdue Pharma.
Purdue’s patent on the addictive medication expired Sunday. The company pulled OxyContin from the market in March in favour of a new drug, OxyNEO.
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews reiterated calls to provincial and territorial health ministers on Friday to urge the feds to intervene in the Health Canada process.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said politicians should stay out of scientific reviews.
Aglukkaq said Canada’s prescription pill abuse problem is fuelled by doctors over-prescribing drugs like OxyContin, and added that provincial, territorial and federal officials need to “sit down” to carve out a broad strategy to combat the problem.
She also said it is “hypothetical” to question the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and frontline health-care workers.
Doctors prescribe opioid pain pills such as OxyContin 55 times more often than others, according to a study released in 2011 by St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
The US arm of Purdue paid $634.5 million in fines after pleading guilty to misleading the public about the risk of addiction. Purdue maintains the Canadian arm operates independently.