Oxycontin is no longer manufactured in Canada as of today, replaced by a new formulation called OxyNeo, but some police forces across Ontario are concerned about an increase in pharmacy robberies.
The new type of oxycodone is supposed to be harder to abuse and can be swallowed as a whole pill but not crushed or injected to get high.
The medication, which is produced by drug company Purdue Pharma, is also no longer on the list of drugs doctors can prescribe. Oxycontin has also been removed from the Health Canada program that pays for prescription drugs for First Nations members.
For someone who needs Oxycontin as a painkiller, a prescription for Oxycontin can still be filled during March, which is being called a transition period. But doctors are now asked to prescribe OxyNeo, instead.
As of Feb. 28, 2013, a period of one year, doctors will have to make a special application for patients to get OxyNeo. Only patients being treated for cancer pain or palliative care will be eligible without a special application.
In all other types of chronic pain, the doctor will have to prove no other medication has worked for the patient.
There is concern across Ontario about addicts moving to heroin and for those people who need to use oxycodone for pain.
Pharmacy robberies rise as Oxycontin becomes drug of choice
In Ottawa, the rising number of pharmacy robberies has also made police worry about the coming months.
ASIDE | In 2011, Ottawa police seized more than 4,300 Oxycontin pills worth more than $87,000. The street value of one pill is about $20.
In less than two months this year, there have already been 26 reported pharmacy robberies in Ottawa compared to 40 in 2011, police say. There were 39 reported in 2010.
This year's number also makes up more than half of total business robberies.
"It’s too early to tell what the impact is going to be on the street, but at the end of the day it doesn’t get to the root cause, and that’s addiction," said Staff Sgt. Mike Laviolette with Ottawa police.
The Oxycontin problem has grown significantly in the past year, Laviolette added, because it is so highly addictive.
Police say the price of drugs on the street will also now rise with Oxycontin — said to be about $20 per pill — now gone.