Canada Gets OxyNeo, Replacement for Highly Abused OxyContin, But First Death Only Takes a Week

OxyNeo was supposed to be a less-abusable replacement for the opioid OxyContin from Purdue Pharmaceutical. The first death from OxyNeo occurring within the first week is not a good omen.

As of March 2, 2012, the painkiller OxyContin was pulled off pharmacy shelves in Canada and replaced with the new formulation, OxyNeo. It’s the same active ingredient, oxycodone, but in a new pill designed to be “less abusable.”

OxyContin was a more powerful opioid pain reliever that hit the US market in 1996.  Those who wished to circumvent OxyContin’s time-release formula simply had to crush the pill and snort it or dissolve it and inject the solution. Or it could just be chewed and the entire dose of oxycodone would be in the bloodstream in minutes. Users said that the drug provided a high similar to that of heroin.

According to the Global BC website, the OxyNeo pill is harder and tougher so it is not “so easy to crush.” When placed in water, the pill turns into a thick gel to prevent injecting it.

The Globe and Mail reports that since OxyContin was introduced in Canada in 2000, the number of prescriptions have soared to 80 times their original level, hitting 1.6 million per year. Most of the 200,000 prescription drug addicts in the country preferred OxyContin for their addictions.

But after less than one week in distribution, OxyNeo has claimed its first victim. The coroner for northwestern Ontario announced the death on March 5, 2012, and noted the need for vigilance when transferring patients from one pain reliever to another. While the death may have been caused by an improper switchover, it is not a good omen for the new drug.

If the US follows the precedent and replaces OxyContin with OxyNeo, this may drag other problems in its wake. In April 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration announced a tamper-resistant formula of OxyContin for the US market. But as a June 2011 New York Times article reported, this change just drove many opioid abusers to abuse other prescription pain killers or to switch to heroin. And it was still possible to break the pill down for snorting.

The fact is that these are all addictive opiates. The change from OxyContin to OxyNeo comes at a time when Toronto is debating the merits of opening “clean rooms,” where heroin addicts can shoot heroin under sanitary, supervised conditions. The intention of such “harm reduction” is to reduce overdose deaths and possibly divert some addicts into treatment.  As reported in the Toronto Sun, this service has been provided in Vancouver for some years by a firm called Insite. The Canadian Supreme Court just determined that Insite could continue to operate in Vancouver. The decision opens the door to possible similar service in Toronto.

While this debate continues, well over a hundred people have died each year from oxycodone overdose: In 2009, 37 in British Columbia and 143 in Ontario. Other provinces had fewer.

If a person cannot achieve sobriety from OxyContin or heroin addiction through drug rehabilitation, if even methadone-assisted treatment fails, then he or she is considered a candidate for harm reduction programs such as clean rooms or programs that provide pharmaceutical heroin to addicts. These programs are thought to be an improvement over the constant life-threatening risks taken by heroin addicts abusing adulterated supplies that vary in potency.

Is it not possible that if an OxyContin or heroin addict felt he or she had the choice, he would choose to be fully, stably sober? This is the alternative provided by Narconon Trois-Rivieres in Quebec.

In a long-term, holistic program that administers no drugs as part of its treatment, Narconon Trois-Rivieres has helped the majority of its program graduates to achieve sober living.

“Canadians who have fallen into addiction deserve a chance for complete recovery. We have been able to deliver this result to hundreds of citizens from Ontario, Quebec and other provinces,” commented Clark Carr, President of Narconon International. “We are dedicated to helping addicts on six continents turn their lives around through effective drug rehab services. We also help prevent drug abuse by providing drug education classes to hundreds of thousands of school children each year. We are proud to be part of the solution to Canada’s persistent problem with heroin and OxyContin.”

For more information on Narconon®, contact the international offices at 1-800-775-8750.

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