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News Release - Manitoba

March 24, 2010

Manitoba Take Aggressive Action on OxyContin Misuse: Rondeau

Additional safeguards for the use of the prescription narcotic OxyContin were announced today by Healthy Living, Youth and Seniors Minister Jim Rondeau.
“We know that it is important for physicians to have OxyContin as part of their arsenal when treating a patient who has pain that is difficult to control, but when used outside of a physician’s direction, it can be harmful or even lethal,” said Rondeau.  “So, while ensuring appropriate access for those who need it, we have to do everything we can to facilitate appropriate use.” 
The comprehensive approach includes moving OxyContin to part three of the Provincial Drug Program Formulary, an education campaign and funding training to facilitate an increase in the number of physicians with a methadone licence.  These actions are based on the recommendations of an expert working group made up of physicians with varying areas of expertise, representatives from addictions treatment organizations, Manitoba Justice, the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association, as well as Manitoba Health.
OxyContin is a form of opioid. Tolerance develops fairly rapidly to opioids, making higher doses necessary to maintain the intensity of their effect. They are highly addictive and misuse can result in dependence. OxyContin has been known to be illegally obtained, sold on the street and abused. 
The Provincial Drug Program Formulary consists of three parts with an increasing number of controls from part one to part three. Effective March 26, OxyContin will be moved to part three. This change introduces specific criteria that restrict benefits to individuals who have pain related to cancer or other chronic conditions and have a history of being unable to tolerate or receive an adequate response to other medications.  In these cases, physicians will need to contact the Exception Drug Status Office at Manitoba Health for prior approval of coverage through pharmacare. The new procedure is effective March 26for all new prescriptions. For patients already receiving benefit coverage for OxyContin, there is a two-month grace period.  Their physicians must seek approval, where prescribed use meets the new criteria, by May 26.
These changes will be in addition to existing controls already in place such as the Manitoba Prescribing Practices Program used to monitor and control prescribing and dispensing of restricted drugs.
An education campaign aimed at patients being prescribed OxyContin, as well as the general public, is being developed to increase understanding of the dangers that misuse of OxyContin can cause. Posters and pamphlets will be distributed to medical clinics and pharmacies across the province. 
As part of the overall strategy, building capacity to provide methadone treatment for people addicted to OxyContin is being supported. Funding for the training of community-based physicians in methadone treatment will facilitate an increase in the number of physicians who are licensed and trained to administer methadone as a form of treatment for people addicted to OxyContin. Both classroom instruction and clinical training are required in order to obtain a methadone licence. 
“We know there are no easy answers when it comes to drug misuse,” added Rondeau.  “But today we are taking important steps that we believe will reduce future incidence of dependence on a prescription medication known to be misused.”
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