Ottawa should take a pause in its move in the upcoming regulatory approval of a generic form of the powerful and addictive painkiller OxyContin, Manitoba’s Health Minister Theresa Oswald said Wednesday.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has already informed her provincial and territorial counterparts that she won’t interfere in approval process.
"I think it’s a shame that that decision has been made," Oswald said. "The evidence is quite clear that OxyContin is creating devastation in every jurisdiction in Canada."
Oswald said she understands the Nov. 25 approval is mandated under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act, but that the Harper government could still delay it through legislation changing the act.
"She has the power to do that as a legislator and her caucus would have the power to do that," Oswald said.
Under the approval process, a generic drug would require a scientific review by Health Canada before approval.
Ottawa will also tighten licensing rules so that distributors of oxycodone have to keep better track of where the drug goes. Starting in 2013, they will need to report spikes in sales and changes in distribution patterns, in addition to previous responsibilities to report losses and theft.
Other provinces have also called for a delay in approval until regulators can examine how oxycodone is abused.
Ontario’s Health Minister Deb Matthews has called for an outright ban, saying OxyContin has led to a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related deaths. She said the social costs of allowing generic oxycodone would be about $500 million a year in Ontario alone.