Government of Canada invests in collaborative research tackling prescription drug abuse

Innovative national study to improve the health of people living with opioid dependence

OTTAWA, Feb. 16, 2016 /CNW/ - The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, today announced funding for research aimed at improving the health of people who abuse prescription drugs. More and more Canadians are putting their health at risk by intentionally taking medication, such as opioids, in a way that hasn't been recommended by a doctor. The Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is investing $4.4 million to support four large regional teams comprised of researchers, service providers, and decision makers to tackle this public health issue.  The teams based in British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Québec and the Maritimes collaboratively developed the first national study Optimizing patient centered-care: a pragmatic randomized control trial comparing models of care in the management of prescription opioid misuse (OPTIMA), conducted through the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM).

The OPTIMA study will compare and evaluate two treatments for prescription opioid dependence, methadone, which is the current standard of care in Canada, and buprenorphine/naloxone, often the therapy of choice in the United States. The study will address real-world treatment conditions, including patient preference for short-term vs. long-term treatment with medication, and support patient-centered approaches informing decision-making processes. The comparison of the effectiveness of the two treatment models in reducing prescription opioid use will generate practice-based evidence that will be extremely valuable for informing patient care and improving overall health outcomes in Canada.

The teams highlighted today were established under CRISM, which was launched in 2015 to support national collaborative research on reducing negative effects of prescription drug abuse, substance misuse and addiction, including overdose and death.

Quick Facts

  • This investment is part of a $44.9 million investment over five years to expand the National Anti-Drug Strategy to not only include research on illicit drugs, but also prescription drug abuse in Canada.
  • In 2015, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $13.5 million over five years to enhance access to addictions support, prevention and treatment capacity for prescription drug abuse for First Nations living on-reserve across the country.
  • Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health and safety problem in Canada, particularly among youth. In the 2012 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, approximately 410,000 Canadians reported abusing prescription drugs like opioid pain relievers. (Source:
  • The most common types of prescription drugs abused include: opioids (used to treat pain), benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (used to treat attention deficit disorder). (Source:

"Our Government is committed to investing in collaborative research projects aimed at improving the health and lives of thousands of Canadians and their families struggling with prescription drug abuse. We commend the regional teams for undertaking a study that has tremendous potential to provide the necessary information to ultimately offer the right treatment to the right patient."
The Honourable Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

"CIHR is delighted to support the most innovative research on prescription drug abuse. Collaboration between teams is key to ensure knowledge exchange and better use of study results. We are confident that this research will help address the devastating impact of prescription drug abuse, focus on prevention, and offer effective solutions to those facing these issues."
Dr. Anthony Phillips
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

"The impact of prescription opioid dependence is devastating, not only for the individuals affected but also for their families. In Ontario alone, there were nearly 600 opioid-related deaths in 2013. Currently, only a small proportion of people who need help are accessing treatment. Through this study, we will advance the knowledge on effective treatment approaches, with the goal of increasing accessibility and improving patients' lives."
Dr. Bernard Le Foll
Principal Investigator, Ontario OPTIMA Study Site, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

"Prescription opioid dependence is now the most frequent opioid problem encountered in our addiction treatment facilities in Canada. Current models of care with methadone and buprenorphine/naloxone, although proven effective for heroin users, may not be adapted for this new population of users. This pan-Canadian study will test specific interventions that have the potential to increase our ability to attract, retain and successfully treat these patients."
Dr. Julie Bruneau
Principal investigator, Quebec and Maritimes Node, University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre
Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine, Université de Montréal

"British Columbia has been particularly hard hit by prescription drug abuse with an alarming rate of overdose deaths.  Through the support of CIHR and British Columbia's Ministry of Health, the province's CRISM node is excited to work on innovative research that will meaningfully improve public health and safety."
Dr. Evan Wood
Professor of Medicine, UBC & Principal Investigator British Columbia CRISM Node

"Canadians are starting to realize that an effective response to addiction requires innovation.  This is especially true in the Prairie Provinces, which are currently experiencing a public health emergency in relation to opioids.  The OPTIMA study promises to improve models of care across the country for people who are experiencing problems with prescription opioids."
Dr. Cameron Wild
Principal Investigator, Prairies CRISM Node
Professor of Public Health, School of Public Health, University of Alberta

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Associated Links

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

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SOURCE Canadian Institutes of Health Research

For further information: Andrew MacKendrick, Office of the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, 613-957-0200; David Coulombe, Media Relations, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 613-941-4563,


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