Federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose announced nearly $8 million in funding to tackle prescription painkiller abuse across the country while in Hamilton Friday.

Ambrose made the announcement at the McMaster University's Prescribing Practices Forum, which brings together regulatory authorities, health professionals, the government and experts to improve prescribing practices and reduce prescription drug abuse.

Ambrose said the funding will support six projects focused on improving prescriber education and the development of a national approach for the monitoring and surveillance of prescription drugs.

"Prescription drug abuse has devastating effects on individuals, families and communities," she said. "It is important to acknowledge the role that improved prescribing practices can have in helping to reduce prescription drug abuse."

"The projects announced today will promote responsible prescribing and fund a national approach to monitoring prescription drug abuse, which will better connect the experts in the field and further unite us in our fight against prescription drug abuse."

According to statistics provided by St. Joseph's Healthcare, Hamilton's treatment admission rates for opioids are higher than the provincial and regional LHIN averages.

The rise of painkiller abuse has been connected with crime, and the city has seen a spike in pharmacy robberies this year.

In a statement, Dr. Norm Buckley, the Director of the Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre at McMaster, explained that prescribing medication is complicated because it involves many different organizations.  

"We are pleased Health Canada has brought everyone together to ensure the next steps are taken to protect the health of Canadians from prescription drug abuse," he said.