TORONTO, Sept. 12, 2012 /CNW/ - Generic drug companies are seeking
approval from Health Canada to sell discontinued abuse-prone
formulations of the prescription drug OxyContin. OxyContin was replaced
earlier this year with a new abuse-deterrent formulation called OxyNEO.
Ontario's Health Minister Deb Matthews recently asked her federal
counterpart not to approve generic OxyContin because the older
formulation is prone to abuse, which causes social costs that outweigh
expected generic price savings. New research published today by the Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI) suggests Matthews is right - the avoidable costs of OxyContin abuse
could exceed the savings expected from generic prices by up to $415
OxyContin is a controlled-release version of the opioid-derived
prescription drug oxycodone. Abusers modify the drug by crushing
tablets for inhaling or dissolving the tablets in fluid for injecting,
which defeats the time-release property that moderates the dosage.
While OxyContin is an effective pain reliever for millions of people,
abuse of the product is associated with significant social costs
including addiction rehabilitation, medical care, criminal justice and
Earlier this year, the manufacturer stopped selling the old abuse-prone
version of OxyContin and replaced it with a new abuse-deterrent
formulation called OxyNEO, which is resistant to crushing and
dissolving. The substitution of OxyNEO for OxyContin has the potential
to greatly reduce abuse while preserving health benefits for millions
of legitimate users. But generic drug companies are now seeking Health
Canada's approval to sell the old version of OxyContin once its patent
In a June 6, 2012 letter, Ontario's Health Minister Deb Matthews asked
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq not to approve generic versions
of OxyContin stating, "Ontario believes that the costs to society of
the reintroduction of the more-easily abused version far outweigh the
financial benefits that would accrue from the reduced price".
The CHPI study examined the economic impact of withholding generic
approval, which would result in permanent withdrawal of the abuse-prone
version and full substitution with the new abuse-deterrent OxyNEO
formulation. The findings were published in CHPI's online journal Canadian Health Policy.
The study calculates that for 2011 the annual social costs from
OxyContin abuse could be as high as $504 million in Canada and $318
million in Ontario, while the annual savings expected from generic
discounts on OxyContin across Canada would have ranged between $89
million and $152 million. In Ontario, corresponding generic savings
estimates ranged between $52 million and $106 million.
For Canada, potentially avoidable costs outweigh expected generic
savings by between $352 million and $415 million annually. OxyNEO
substitution would need to reduce prescription drug abuse by as little
18 percent to 30 percent for the trade-off between allowing and
prohibiting generic versions to be economically neutral.
The study was authored by Brett Skinner, Founder and CEO of CHPI.
According to Skinner, "the available evidence suggests that generic Oxy
would exacerbate social costs that could be avoided to a significant
degree by substitution of the new abuse-deterrent formulation OxyNEO.
Avoidable costs very likely exceed expected generic price savings. Most
of the costs of OxyContin abuse are paid for directly or indirectly by
governments - and therefore by taxpayers. Ontario's Minister of Health
is likely correct, if Health Canada approves cheap generic Oxy it could
end up costing us plenty."
Established in 2012, Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI) is a federally incorporated non-profit, independent think-tank. CHPI is
dedicated entirely to conducting, publishing and communicating
evidence-based socio-economic research on health system performance and
health policy issues that are important to Canadians. CHPI's work is
published in the online journal Canadian Health Policy, www.canadianhealthpolicy.com.
SOURCE: Canadian Health Policy Institute
For further information:
Dr. Brett J Skinner (Ph.D.), Founder and CEO, Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI)