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Feds wants stronger warning labels on prescription painkillers: Ambrose

August 19, 2014 – The federal government is putting stronger warninglabels on extended-release painkillers like OxyContin in an effort to prevent the abuse of opioids.

“Too many people are abusing prescription drugs,” Health Minister Rona Ambrose told the annual conference of the Canadian Medical Association on Monday.


August 19, 2014
By Lee-Anne Goodman The Canadian Press

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“Too many people are suffering and dying as a result.”

In
prepared remarks, Ambrose reminded the conference that Canada is now the
second-largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids in the
world, behind the United States.

As well, she pointed out, a
2012 study suggests that close to a million young Canadians between the
ages of 15 and 24 reported using prescription drugs in the previous 12
months.

The Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey also
found that 410,000 Canadians said they’d abused prescription drugs like
opioid pain relievers, including Demorol and OxyContin; stimulants like
Ritalin and Adderall; and tranquilizers and sedatives that include
Valium, Ativan and Xanax.

“Quite frankly, these numbers are frightening, unacceptable and the reason why our government is taking action,” Ambrose said.

The
Conservatives’ new initiatives include stronger warnings on opioid
labels that emphasize the risks and safety concerns associated with the
drugs.

The new labels also remove reference to “moderate” pain to clarify opioids should only be used to manage severe pain.

Ambrose
is also calling for the development of other practical solutions that
will prevent opioid abuse while keeping the painkillers available for
patients who truly need them.

A year ago, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration announced safety labeling changes for all
extended-release and long-acting opioids intended to treat pain.

David
Juurlink, a medical toxicologist at the University of Toronto, said
it’s “hard to argue” with label changes, adding OxyContin and related
drugs should have been restricted for treating only patients in severe
pain as soon as they came onto the market.

“The change will limit
what drug companies can say in advertisements to doctors, but it’s not
likely to change how doctors prescribe opioids,” he said in an
interview. “That horse has bolted.”

Ottawa needs to go much further, Juurlink added.

“What
we really need are federal initiatives to quantify the toll of opioid
misuse, to properly educate doctors about the risk/benefit profile of
opioids and perhaps even federal support for an investigation into how
these drugs were marketed in Canada,” he said.

“That’s happening in the United States, and for good reason. Why it’s not happening here, I don’t know.”


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