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Canada funds $4.4M research initiative to combat Rx drug abuse

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott today announced more than $4 million in funding for research aimed at improving the health of people who abuse prescription drugs.

February 16, 2016  By Massage Therapy Canada staff

Health Minister

More and more Canadians are putting their health at risk by intentionally taking medication, such as opioids, in a way that hasn’t been recommended by a doctor. The Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is investing $4.4 million to support four large regional teams comprised of researchers, service providers and decision makers to tackle this public health issue, a statement from the CIHR said.

“Our government is committed to investing in collaborative research projects aimed at improving the health and lives of thousands of Canadians and their families struggling with prescription drug abuse. We commend the regional teams for undertaking a study that has tremendous potential to provide the necessary information to ultimately offer the right treatment to the right patient,” Philpott said.

The teams, based in British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Qu├ębec and the Maritimes, collaboratively developed the first national study, Optimizing patient centered-care: a pragmatic randomized control trial comparing models of care in the management of prescription opioid misuse (OPTIMA), conducted through the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM).

“Prescription opioid dependence is now the most frequent opioid problem encountered in our addiction treatment facilities in Canada,” according to Dr. Julie Bruneau, principal investigator, Quebec and Maritimes Node, University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre. “Current models of care with methadone and buprenorphine/naloxone, although proven effective for heroin users, may not be adapted for this new population of users. This pan-Canadian study will test specific interventions that have the potential to increase our ability to attract, retain and successfully treat these patients.”


The OPTIMA study will compare and evaluate two treatments for prescription opioid dependence, methadone, which is the current standard of care in Canada, and buprenorphine/naloxone, often the therapy of choice in the United States. The study will address real-world treatment conditions, including patient preference for short-term versus long-term treatment with medication, and support patient-centered approaches informing decision-making processes. The comparison of the effectiveness of the two treatment models in reducing prescription opioid use will generate practice-based evidence that will be extremely valuable for informing patient care and improving overall health outcomes in Canada, the CIHR said.

The teams highlighted today were established under CRISM, which was launched in 2015 to support national collaborative research on reducing negative effects of prescription drug abuse, substance misuse and addiction, including overdose and death.

This investment is part of a $44.9 million investment over five years to expand the National Anti-Drug Strategy to not only include research on illicit drugs, but also prescription drug abuse in Canada.

In 2015, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $13.5 million over five years to enhance access to addictions support, prevention and treatment capacity for prescription drug abuse for First Nations living on-reserve across the country.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health and safety problem in Canada, particularly among youth. In the 2012 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, approximately 410,000 Canadians reported abusing prescription drugs like opioid pain relievers.

The most common types of prescription drugs abused include: opioids (used to treat pain), benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (used to treat attention deficit disorder).

“CIHR is delighted to support the most innovative research on prescription drug abuse. Collaboration between teams is key to ensure knowledge exchange and better use of study results. We are confident that this research will help address the devastating impact of prescription drug abuse, focus on prevention, and offer effective solutions to those facing these issues,” said Dr. Anthony Phillips, scientific director, CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

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