The following medications will no longer be eligible for coverage under ODB:
- 200mg MS Contin SR (Morphine) Tablet
- 200mg Novo-Morphine SR Tablet
- 200mg M-Eslon Capsule
- 24mg Hydromorphone capsule
- 30mg Hydromorphone capsule
- 75mcg/h Fentanyl patch
- 100mcg/h Fentanyl patch
- 50mg Demerol Tablet
The notice also specifies that none of these medications will be considered through EAP (Exceptional Access Program) or Compassionate Review Policy (CRP).
The Ministry states that this move is part of their commitment to "reduce the risk of addiction and death resulting from the abuse, misuse, and diversion of these products." While the hope may be that this policy change will help curb the growing issue of opioid addiction and death from overdose, in reality, this may not end up being the result. Not only is this policy change unfair and potentially harmful to legitimate pain patients requiring high doses of opioids, it also creates a potential for harm to both those prescribed the drug, and those who use it without a prescription.
This leaves prescribed patients without sufficient pain relief, and potentially creates an opening for the patient to seek out relief elsewhere. Elsewhere, in case you were wondering, is the street. Those using prescription opioids recreationally, or to maintain an addiction, will also have to find a different form of opioid. Considering the highly potent drugs circulating on the streets across Canada today, this creates a dangerous and potentially deadly situation.
MPP France Gélinas (NDP) noted that delisting these opioid medications isn't as clear cut as it seems. "Once you're addicted, you will find a way to get it. For people on low incomes, we have multiplied the problem ten-fold."
This policy change is yet again effectively removing several safer pharmaceutical options from both patients and users. We've seen this all before, in case you've forgotten. Has our government learned absolutely nothing from the fiasco of OxyNeo replacing OxyContin? It's as though the events, overdoses and deaths that have occurred over the past 5 years have been completely overlooked. With the removal of pharmaceutical options, Canada has been flooded with increasingly potent opioids and research chemicals in attempts to continue to meet the demand for opioids and evade the eye of law enforcement. Powders and pills purchased on the street have no quality control or consistency throughout, are not labelled by their true dosage, and there is no easy way of knowing what active ingredients are in the mix. Doesn't that seem a hell of a lot more dangerous?
It is patients and users who will suffer from this policy change, not addiction and overdose rates. Instead of removing safer options, the province of Ontario needs to immediately and whole-heartedly embrace harm reduction initiatives to truly make a difference in addiction and overdose rates.
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