Ontario moving fast in battle against opioid abuse

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TORONTO – Enhancing data collection, modernizing prescribing and dispensing practices, and connecting patients with high quality addiction treatment services are some of the steps that Ontario is implementing as part of its comprehensive Opioid strategy to prevent opioid addiction and overdose.

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, said: “Opioid misuse is the third leading cause of accidental death in Ontario. Our comprehensive approach to this crisis will not only help save lives, but will enhance the lives of families and whole communities. Given the urgency of this issue, taking action now will have a real impact on opioid addiction and overdose.”

Ontario’s strategy to prevent addiction and overdose includes:

  • Designating Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, as Ontario’s first-ever Provincial Overdose Coordinator to launch a new surveillance and reporting system to better respond to opioid overdoses in a timely manner and inform how best to direct care.
  • Developing evidence-based standards for health care providers on appropriate opioid prescribing that will be released by end of 2017-18 to help prevent the unnecessary dispensing and over-prescribing of pain killers.
  • Delisting high-strength formulations of long-acting opioids from the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary starting January 1, 2017 to help prevent addiction and support appropriate prescribing.
  • Investing $17 million annually in Ontario’s Chronic Pain Network to create or enhance 17 chronic pain clinics across the province, ensuring that patients receive timely and appropriate care.
  • Expanding access to naloxone overdose medication, available free of charge for patients and their families through pharmacies and eligible organizations to prevent overdose deaths.
  • Increasing access to Suboxone addiction treatment and improving patient outcomes and integration of care for those using this treatment.
  • Beginning October 1, 2016, stricter controls on the prescribing and dispensing of fentanyl patches took effect. Patients are now required to return used fentanyl patches to their pharmacy before more patches can be dispensed.
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Committee Recommendations

Ontario’s opioid strategy was informed by the recommendations of the Methadone Treatment and Services Advisory Committee, which was established by the province to advise on strengthening Ontario’s methadone treatment and related services. Today, Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minis ter of Health and Long-Term Care and Dr. Williams have written to all health care providers in Ontario outlining the strategy and enlisting their support to help prevent and reduce opioid addiction and overdose. The government will continue to seek input on the strategy and identify additional areas for consideration.

David Orazietti, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said: “Our government recognizes that this is an important public safety issue for Ontario. My ministry will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Office of the Chief Coroner, and our partners in policing, firefighting and corrections to support this initiative and help save lives.”

  • In 2014, over 700 people died in Ontario from opioid-related causes, a 266 per cent increase since 2002.
  • Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction. The risk of a fatal overdose on Suboxone is significantly less than with methadone.
  • The Methadone Treatment and Services Advisory Committee is comprised of addiction experts, experienced clinicians and patient advocates from across Ontario.
  • Ontario’s actions build on the 2012 expert working group report Stewardship for Prescription Narcotics in Ontario.
  • In fall 2016, public consultations will be held with families, caregivers, academics and health care providers, people with lived experience, among others, to seek input on the strategy and to identify additional important considerations. You can send your comments to:[email protected] – CINEWS
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