Doctors and pharmacists in Manitoba are weighing in on the federal government's refusal to stop drug companies from making generic versions of OxyContin.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has informed her provincial and territorial counterparts that she won't interfere in the regulatory approval process for a generic form of the powerful and addictive painkiller.
The patent on the original drug is set to expire on Nov. 25, and several companies have already expressed interest in making their own generic versions.
A generic drug would require a scientific review by Health Canada before approval.
Dr. Lindy Lee, a Winnipeg physician who treats people with addictions, says if generic oxycodone does enter the market, doctors will have to better learn how to prescribe it.
"Physicians are the gatekeepers to these drugs," Lee said Monday.
"How can we do better pain assessments? How can we do addiction risk assessments? How can we have comfortable interviews where patients, if they're getting into trouble, can put it on the table?"
Purdue Pharma, the company that made the original drug, pulled OxyContin in March over concerns that it was being abused by drug users who altered it to make it more potent.
Officials in the provinces and territories, including Manitoba, had called on Health Canada to delay approvals for generic oxycodone, fearing that more people would abuse the drug if a lower-cost form of it became readily available.
Winnipeg pharmacy owner Thomas Ling said his store hasn't been robbed since OxyContin was removed from shelves, but he worries that may change if generic versions start appearing.
Ling said he felt so helpless after being robbed three times by OxyContin addicts that he obtained a gun — which, he added, resulted in a dangerous incident involving one man.
"He tried to wrestle it from me and then we fought," he said.
Health Canada is adding new licensing rules to attempt to prevent abuse of the powerful painkiller.
Manufacturers and/or distributors of the drug will have to report spikes in sales and changes in distribution patterns, in addition to the department’s current requirements to report loss and theft.