OxyContin maker sends phase-out notice

The company that makes OxyContin has informed Newfoundland and Labrador's medical regulator the controversial drug will be phased out and replaced with a safer drug called OxyNEO.

Company says it will be replaced with a safer drug called OxyNEO

The company that makes OxyContin has informed Newfoundland and Labrador's medical regulator the controversial drug will be phased out and replaced with a safer drug called OxyNEO.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador said Purdue Pharma Canada sent out a letter on Oct. 27, advising that the company is currently developing plans for an "orderly introduction" of OxyNEO and the withdrawal of OxyContin.

According to Purdue Pharma Canada, the new drug will still include oxycodone but is formulated in a way that will be "more difficult to be manipulated for the purpose of misuse and abuse."

The notice on the college's website did not give a timeline on the planned phase-out. The college said it will forward any information it receives to medical practitioners as the information becomes available.

Purdue Pharma Canada was not immediately available for comment Friday.

OxyContin is a drug that slowly releases oxycodone when it is used as prescribed. When OxyContin is chewed or crushed, injected and inhaled, it produces a rapid "heroin-like effect euphoria," according to Health Canada. It is similar to morphine in its effect and addictiveness.

Last month, a federal report said OxyNEO was marketed in the United States in April as a "difficult-to-crush tablet that when hydrated, forms a viscous gel that resists oxycodone extraction for injection purposes."

"Having received a notice of compliance from Health Canada in August 2011, OxyNEO will be replacing OxyContin on the Canadian market prompting questions regarding its ability to deter abuse, how to integrate the new formulation into clinical practice, and how to identify candidates for therapy," the report said.

Between 2004 and 2009, more than 450 people are estimated to have died in Ontario from overdoses involving oxycodone.