Pharmacy robberies in Ottawa have nearly stopped altogether since the narcotic OxyContin was phased out, Ottawa police say.

OxyContin had grown in popularity as an abused narcotic in Ottawa. It was legal, highly addictive and could be crushed and injected.

In the spring, OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma replaced it with a new drug called OxyNeo. It's much harder to crush and turns into a gel that can't be injected if it's mixed with water.

The drug company's decision to pull OxyContin by March was precipitated by a rash of pharmacy robberies in Ottawa at the beginning of the year.

Since the drug was pulled, there has been only one pharmacy robbery and none at all since May 27, police said. In total there have been 42 pharmacy robberies this year.

There were 40 drug store robberies related to the narcotic in all of 2011, and 39 robberies in 2010.

Police lobby to keep generics off market

The group representing Ontario's police chiefs said it's concerned that the release of generic drugs similar to OxyContin could start the problem all over again.

Purdue Pharma's patent for the drug expires in November, after which time generic drug makers would be able to apply to bring their versions of the drug to the market. 

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police spokesman Joe Couto said his group is lobbying Health Canada to block any such generics from hitting the market.

"We can't go back; it's simply a question of public safety," said Couto.