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Regulatory amendments target prescription drug abuse in Canada


August 6, 2015
By Canadian Chiropractor staff

The federal health ministry has announced final regulations to add tapentadol, a synthetic opioid used for pain relief, to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to the Narcotic Control Regulations.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose made the announcement July 29th. The Government of Canada recognizes that the abuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health and safety issue that is having a devastating impact on families and communities, a statement from the ministry stated.

Controlling tapentadol will help prevent its misuse while ensuring that it remains available for patients who need the drug for legitimate medical purposes.

This regulatory amendment will provide law enforcement agencies and the Canada Border Services Agency with the authority to take action against illegal activities involving tapentadol.

The announcement is in line with the government’s effort to curb prescription drug abuse, investing about $130 million a year under its National Anti-Drug Strategy to address addictions and drug abuse in Canada. These funds contribute to developing tangible and effective solutions to the problems of drug addiction. In 2014, the government committed over $44 million over five years to expand the focus of the National Anti-Drug Strategy from illicit drugs to include measures to address prescription drug abuse.

“When used properly, opioids can relieve pain. Unfortunately, we are seeing far too often that they are abused, leading to addiction, overdose and even death. The regulatory amendments announced today are another step towards eliminating prescription drug abuse in Canada,” Ambrose said at the announcement last week.

According to the ministry, over the past several months, the Government of Canada has taken a number of steps to address prescription drug abuse, including:

• launching a national marketing campaign to equip parents with the information and tools needed to talk with their teenagers about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse;
• providing $13.5 million over five years to enhance prevention and treatment services for prescription drug abuse in First Nations communities;
• investing an additional $5 million in support of research for the prevention and treatment of prescription drug abuse through the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), a national research network aimed at improving the health of Canadians living with substance misuse;
• announcing nearly $8 million to support projects to improve prescriber education and to support the development of a national approach to the monitoring and surveillance of prescription drugs;
• announcing nearly $13 million over five years to increase the number of annual pharmacy inspections carried out by Health Canada; and,
• introducing four promotional videos featuring personal stories from Canadians directly affected by prescription drug abuse.

The misuse and abuse of prescription drugs can lead to addiction, overdose and death. As with other opioid pain relievers, tapentadol has diversion and abuse potential. In 2013, 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using a psychoactive prescription drug. Of these, two per cent (about 146,000) reported abusing the drug for non-medical purposes.

According to the International Narcotics Control Board, Canada is the second-largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids in the world.