Statement issued on Canada’s opioid crisis and steps to fight it

opioids“Canada is facing a growing crisis related to opioid overdoses and deaths across the country, and the federal government is committed to addressing this issue.

(Medications that fall within the opioid class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain.)

Recognising the severity of the problem in that province, the Premier of British Columbia announced a Joint Task Force on Overdose Response, which will seek to provide expert leadership and advice on additional actions to prevent and respond to overdoses. The federal government applauds B.C.’s work in this area and its swift response to what has become a public health crisis, and we want to assure the province we will work with them as they advance their efforts to combat this crisis.

Government action is much stronger when we all work together. There is no single solution to this devastating problem, but we continue to find strength in numbers as we collaborate with our partners.  That’s why the federal government has been working with provinces, territories, health professionals, addiction experts, law enforcement, justice stakeholders, and Indigenous leaders to identify innovative solutions to the crisis.

Earlier this year, Health Canada made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available to first responders and families. Last month, I also signed an interim order, allowing naloxone nasal spray, a more user-friendly format, to be sold in Canada.

I also recently announced Health Canada’s new Action Plan on Opioid Abuse, which focuses on key areas where the Government of Canada can provide leadership on the opioid crisis while continuing to work with our partners to address this issue from multiple angles.Opioids - a crisis in Canada

The plan includes:

  • Better informing Canadians about the risks of opioids, by mandating standard warning stickers and patient information sheets and commissioning a review of best practices
  • Supporting better prescribing practices, through promoting prescription monitoring programs, examining pharmacy records, promoting information sharing, and supporting Canada Health Infoway’s e-prescribing solution
  • Reducing easy access to unnecessary opioids, adding clear contraindications for approved opioids, requiring a prescription for low-dose codeine products, and making Risk Management Plans mandatory for certain opioids
  • Supporting better treatment options for patients, by continuing to provide greater and faster access to naloxone, expediting the review of non-opioid pain relievers, and re-examining special requirements for methadone so that multiple options are available when considering treatment options
  • Improving the evidence base, through bringing together experts to discuss how to improve data collection and Canadian evidence standards

Looking forward, we know that much work still needs to be done. To this end, as previously indicated, we will be supporting the amended version of Senator Vern White’s Senate Public Bill to add substances used in the production of illicit fentanyl to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), in order to address the supply side of the opioid crisis. We also intend to bring forward legislative options for consideration on the issue of pill presses.

To sustain and build on this momentum, we will be hosting a summit on opioid abuse, where we will meet with a small number of leaders and key regulators in the field to lay out a prioritized list of action items, and to establish clear timelines so that we can continue moving forward with a united approach to this crisis.”  – CINEWS/Health Canada

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