OxyContin to be discontinued

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Trade name drug being replaced, but generic oxycodone will still be available

— File photo

The Newfoundland government can’t say yet whether the province’s prescription drug program will cover a new drug, OxyNEO, expected to be marketed by Purdue Pharma early next year as a replacement for OxyContin.

OxyContin, Purdue Pharma’s trademark, time-release oxycodone drug, is now available only through special authorization to people eligible for coverage un-

der the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP).

But there are at least 15 other generic oxycodone drugs on the NLPDP’s interchangeable drug formulary.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said Tuesday “all new medications considered for coverage under the NLPDP must be reviewed by the Atlantic Expert Advisory Committee, the national Common Drug Review or the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review.”


These committees are comprised of physicians, pharmacists and others with expertise in drug therapy.

Once the review has been completed, she said, the recommendations will be considered by the provincial government and a determination will be made regarding coverage.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador has notified doctors in the province that OxyContin will soon be discontinued by the manufacturer and replaced with OxyNEO.

Purdue Pharma communications manager Lucy Lai confirmed that Health Canada has approved OxyNEO, a new long-acting oxycodone product, to replace OxyContin.

She said it will be the only controlled-release oxycodone with unique properties of “hydrogelling and hardened tablets” in Canada.

“Purdue has begun discussions with provincial drug plans and other stakeholders,” Lai said, “and is working towards the introduction of OxyNEO in early 2012.”

The recommended dose for OxyContin is one tablet every 12 hours and one of the main concerns with the drug has been that abusers crush and modify the pills for faster absorption or to snort or inject the drug. It’s believed that this will be more difficult with OxyNEO.

Sandra Carey, president of the Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said she’s aware of this claim by the company, but wouldn’t comment on that aspect of the new drug.

Having done a fair amount of speaking on drug abuse issues and misuse, Carey said, “I can tell you that the people who are using prescription drugs for those purposes have very inventive ways of being able to make these drugs work.”

It’s a big business, she said, but with respect to Purdue’s decision, “any process that stops the flow of drugs to the street is a good process.”

The removal of OxyContin from the market, however, doesn’t mean that the main ingredient in it, oxycodone, will no longer be available.

There are numerous generic oxycodone drugs available. The long list of generics in the province’s prescription drug program formulary include some with oxycodone alone and some in combination with acetylsalicylic acid or acetaminophen.

Carey said most of these drugs have been around for six or seven years and the only differences between them and OxyContin is they’re immediate-release drugs, rather than time-release drugs, and the dosages are lower, from about five to 20 mgs.

 OxyContin pills contain a maximum of 80 mgs of oxycodone. A 160-mg pill was produced about 10 years ago in the U.S., but was withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer because of concerns about drug abuse.

Carey said there are legitimate chronic pain patients who take oxycodone drugs responsibly and are being cared for very well.

She said she believes these people will continue to have their pain needs met.

“That’s not the concern. The issue is the drugs that are being filtered to the street.”

Patients who are on OxyContin now have to obtain a special authorization to have it covered under the province’s drug program, Carey said.

“So, they have been through a process which shows that this is the drug that works best for them and I’m sure that after some review, the department would look at (OxyNEO) in the same way.”

Carey said prescription drugs “have a huge capacity to do good when used appropriately and an even bigger capacity to do harm if not applied properly.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s OxyContin, morphine, codeine, any of the narcotics, she said — if taken for purposes they weren’t intended, they can cause harm and cause addiction.

Carey said all of these drugs, when they filter to the street, can increase the incidence of holdups at pharmacies, break-ins and thefts, and put pharmacists at risk.

The pharmacists’ association is working with the Department of Health, the provincial government and the police to make sure the needs of the public are met and the safety of pharmacists is ensured, Carey said.

When asked to comment on the generic immediate-release oxycodone pills available and the likelihood that they could be used inappropriately, Carey said, “they’re crushed, they’re snorted, they’re free-based, absolutely.”

But if drug users consume large amounts of oxycodone and acetylsalicylic acid, she said, they can damage their kidneys, while overuse of oxycodone/acetaminophen combination pills can cause potential liver issues.

OxyNEO became available in the U.S. in April 2010.

In recent years, Purdue’s OxyContin pills have been the subject of legal actions in the United States with the manufacturer accusing several other companies of infringing on its patents by producing generic versions. However, most of those legal actions, according to Purdue news releases, were resolved before they reached the courts.

Purdue’s patents for OxyContin are said to begin to expire in 2013. It’s not known if other manufacturer’s, at that time, will produce a similar generic drug.



Organizations: College of Physicians, Purdue Pharma, Department of Health Atlantic Expert Advisory Committee Canadian Oncology Drug Review Health Canada Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, United States, Canada

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Recent comments

  • hopes-truth
    February 18, 2012 - 10:21

    Wow! addict a nation to the most addictive and potent form of Heroin around, I was on it for 3 years and when I quit because I knew it was effecting my mind, I became very withdrawn and stubborn. Going off of it alone while having a divorce after 30 years together.. well I ended up in Mental Health several times, I went off cold turkey and lived on 3 hours sleep every third day for months.. sleepless, grieving and in agony from my pain.. . its been 2+ years now and I am healing and have learned to keep my pain minimised by suffering without much physical activity.. or fun... or work.. or life.. lol.. I was truly in a state of dementia for months.. I fear for any one who might have to suffer what I did. The callous nature of Mental Health was sickening. Personally I think its a double edge sword and whether you crush them, free base them, inject.. whatever.. just taking them as prescribed are equally ADDICTIVE! and extremely painful to quit if you've been on them for a good while. I feel your pain if you get denied! The word withdrawal was never heard from any of my Doctors.. they don't think about it.

  • Steve
    February 18, 2012 - 04:54

    I would just like to say that if you are a legit chronic pain sufferer then there will be a medication prescribed that will do tue same as before. There is no way the patients would be made to suffer needlessly by our government as they know that a very serious class-action lawsuit would happen if chronic pain sufferers were not given there medications. If you are using a oxycontin type medication then we all will continue to recieve a very similar type of opiate for chronic pain. There is no way the pharma companies are going to stop producing oxy as it is a major money maker for them. If you are a legit patient that has been on it for a long time then you will be taken care of im very sure. If not then I will be the first to start the lawsuit!!! The problem is with the abusers who just want to get high and they will suffer the real pain. Be at ease, we will be ok. :,)

  • Adam
    February 17, 2012 - 20:58

    It took me so long to finally find doctors who actully listened to me and saved my life by taking a 7 pound tumor out of my body, i realize alot of people abuse these drugs but they are just going to resort to herion or other drugs and in higher amounts... they have to come up with a better stratgy because like the prevous stated the only people who are truly going to suffer are the ones who have already been suffering for almost there whole life... this is so depressing 1 bad bunch sinks the whole bloody ship....

  • v.dube
    February 14, 2012 - 08:12

    i would like to add to this , and let it be known to the makers of this new drug , i hope they read this ,the peaple who have ben on this oxycontin drug have faut long and hard to get to the right dosage to be comfertable with managing there cronic pain , and now they have to start all over again at the root of there managment , this is going to couse an epademic in crim and deaths , you see when the same pain managment areint being met theres gonna be , ok ill take another one and then another one and depending on the person taking the new drug oxyneo ,not knowing how it will react to there sestem alot of peaple will overdose on these new drugs becouse there isent enough history to be given to the public,i believe that all the drug store are going to have a police officer or some typ of security , this is going to couse alot of problem,s with drug stores ,they just dont know how to deal with this street problem and they just made it werse ,the only thing that they had to do was to take all the peaple with lajetamit proof of injury like = m r i,s and sound paper work on there injury , and only allow a minamim of 4 pill,s a day becouse they are really a 12 hr rellaes ,the problem also is the dr,s who give them out like candy , this is the problem and they dont monitor there paisants properly ,becouse no matter how bad your pain is this oxycontin drug doe,s work and very good ,and if the person takeing this drug does not get releaf on a 20 mlg 4 time,s a day then they should get the next higher doe,s like 40 or 60 or 80 mlg but a limit of only 4 a day, becouse if they need this drug 4 a day of any mlg is and will take care of the pain and mobility of the person taking it , if it doe,notthen the person should take mean,s in there life stile to adjust ,this is what the limit of the oxycontin should be, i know this first hand becouse i have seven disk,s damaged and i feel the same with 4 pill,s a day then with 8 or 10 pill,s a day , and everyone can make ajustment in there tallerance to pain , and by doing this limit to 4 pill,s a day doesent leave any room to sell them on the street , i mean also that if a person getting 4 pill,s a day can get on a piddel bike and ride around town should not be getting these drug,s ,i think we can all figgar out from this that , its the dr,s missleading this drug and dont know enough first hand on pain managment ,not ive seen peaple walk into there dr office with a limp and a cain and as soon as they get the drug from the drug store they get on a piddel bike and ride across the city like they dont even need em or without even taking one pill , this is the problem . the dr,s point blank pain managment .

  • strife
    December 09, 2011 - 17:31

    This is total BS. Deb Mathews, the Ontario Minister of Health, who btw has absolutely no medical background or experience, is most likely behind this. Obviously Purdue has been pressured by someone as there is no way they would do this on their own. It's already been shown that the new formulation that has been available in the US for a while now doesn't treat pain as well. Although the same drug, Oxycontin, is involved there appears to be some issue with the reformulation that is most likely due to the polymer that has been bonded to the medication that causes the new drug to be less effective at treating chronic pain. @Sure Buddy, you obviously do not suffer from chronic debilitating pain as some of us do or you wouldn't have made that callous post. Do some research and you will find that the issue I described is widely talked about. Not to mention that in the states they are using BPA as the agent to bond with the drug. Thankfully BPA is banned in Canada but who know what Purdue is using here if they are willing to use a toxic agent in the USA.

  • always IN PAIN
    November 09, 2011 - 16:23

    What about we the People THAT R in PAIN 24/7?-WE R the People that this New OxyContin that is going to be MADE WE R the PEOPLE this is going to HURT when R Pain gets out of control., We get No Help they R the Big Company., we R the Little People Our CRY for HELP does not seam to Matter to the Big Company that is PURDUE PHARM., We need to start a pettion to PURDUE our Voice needs to count

    • Sure Buddy
      November 19, 2011 - 10:25

      Well, either you didn't comprehend the article or you are not using the drug for pain as you suggest. My guess is both.