Fentanyl alternative BuTrans should be covered, says doctor

An Ottawa doctor would like to see the province cover an alternative patch to the opioid fentanyl, one he says is not as easily abused.

Province denied drug in 2012, but would welcome resubmission

An Ottawa doctor would like to see the province cover an alternative patch to the opioid fentanyl, one he says is not as easily abused.

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Fentanyl, which is administered through a patch worn on the skin, is used to treat acute and chronic pain, but has concerned addiction experts and law enforcement officials because it is easily abused and has proven to be deadly when abused, particularly for first-time users.

From 2009 to 2011, there were 253 deaths in Ontario linked to fentanyl abuse, according to the Office of the Chief Coroner.

Dr. Johnathan McKenzie prescribes medication for patients with acute pain, but said lately he has been prescribing BuTrans, a similar patch which contains the opioid buprenorphine.

While any opioid could potentially be abused, McKenzie said BuTrans is not as potent or addictive as others.

Fentanyl is covered under Ontario's drug benefit plan, but BuTrans is not.

Two prescription opioid patches: BuTrans and ratio-Fentanyl. Only fentanyl is currently covered by the Ontario Drug Plan. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

One of McKenzie's patients, 85-year-old Evelyn Warren, takes the drug to overcome severe arthritis and carry on with her normal routine. She is lucky since it is covered by her private drug plan, but normally it can cost more than $200 a month.

"I've used it now for five to six years with great success and I do feel it should be covered," said McKenzie.

Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said in a statement the committee to evaluate drugs reviewed a submission from the drug manufacturer in 2012 and did not recommend it because there was not enough evidence to support its benefits over other similar patches.

But it said it would reconsider if the manufacturer submitted new information.


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