Bullock Asks Canada to Reconsider Oxycodone Policy

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock added his voice Wednesday to those asking the Canadian government to reconsider its approval of the generic form of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin.

Bullock, who will be sworn in as governor in January after winning election this month, told the Canadian health minister in a letter Wednesday that oxycodone will be easier to abuse and could undermine efforts to prevent addiction.

Canada’s federal government decided this week to move the generic drug’s approval process forward. The move set off a quick outcry from that country’s provinces and aboriginal communities, which are also worried about abuse, particularly those in rural areas who said the generic version would flood the streets.

The Montana Department of Justice said it is concerned that generic oxycodone could join the list of other drugs that are often smuggled south across the border.

The agency points out that OxyContin’s maker, Purdue Pharma LP, has taken measures making it more difficult to abuse the drug, such as making the pills in a time-release format less desirable to addicts. Another feature turns the pills to gel if they’re crushed in an attempt to snort the drug. Bullock’s office says those features are not included in the cheaper generic version.

“Studies have shown that the tamper-resistant changes OxyContin manufacturers have made to the drug have resulted in less abuse among addicts,” Bullock wrote in a letter to Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “I have concerns that allowing easier-to-abuse oxycodone in Canada could undo some of the work that both Canadian and U.S. government and community leaders have accomplished in combating this epidemic.”

Bullock’s office said the attorney general has also discussed the issue with R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Canadian Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Bullock took several steps during his term to prioritize issues with prescription drug abuse, such as enacting a prescription drug registry aimed at helping doctors and pharmacists recognize pill-seekers and doctor shoppers.

His letter joins requests from local leaders in Canada opposed to the federal policy, which opens the way for generic oxycodone to win approval in Canada after the patent for the brand-name OxyContin expires Sunday.

Aglukkaq has said federal laws don’t allow regulators to ban a drug just because some people abuse it, and said the provinces already have several ways to prevent oxycodone and other opiates from being abused.

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