Health Bulletins – Progress On OxyContin Partnership Strategy

May 22, 2012

“Ontario has made progress by expanding treatment options, information resources, and monitoring in response to the removal of OxyContin from the Canadian market. With advice from the Expert Working Group on Narcotic Addition and working with my colleagues Ministers Wynne and Hoskins, we will continue address the health care needs of Ontarians recovering from OxyContin addiction.”
– Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

Since Purdue Pharma notified the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that it was discontinuing production of OxyContin as of March 1st, 2012, the ministry has been working closely with the Expert Working Group on Narcotic Addiction, health care partners and community leaders to ensure that Ontarians addicted to opioids such as OxyContin receive the health care and support they need.Treatment Options

Ministry officials are working with addiction treatment organizations to provide access to people seeking treatment, through the following measures:

• Telemedicine: Addiction treatment and counselling services are available through the more than 1,400 Ontario Telemedicine Network sites. The ministry has purchased an additional 130 teleconferencing units which will be deployed in the short term based on greatest need. The ministry is working with Health Canada to explore the best use of telemedicine to increase access to addiction services in First Nation communities.
• Aboriginal health: Mental health and addictions services are available through Aboriginal Health Access Centres and Aboriginal Community Health Centres. Twenty new nurse practitioner positions have been filled. This will be an invaluable resource for Aboriginal communities in need of support dealing with opioid addictions.
• Overdose Kit Training and Supplies: The government provided funding in March to purchase overdose prevention kits, available through Public Health Units and intended for substance users who are at risk of HIV, hepatitis C virus and hepatitis B transmission. Overdose prevention training was provided to 100 front line workers and peers and educational materials are currently available for public use on the Ontario Harm Reduction Distribution Program website.
• Methadone: Methadone Maintenance Treatment is available through the College of Physicians and Surgeons Ontario physician outreach program. Methadone is prescribed by about 350 physicians to over 37,500 Ontarians.
• Suboxone: Ontario has streamlined Suboxone treatment application process for opioid-dependence. The turnaround time for Suboxone requests is currently three business days, and there is no current backlog of requests. Available under the Exceptional Access Program, Suboxone may be provided:
o To patients who have failed, have significant intolerance, have a contraindication to, or who are at high risk for toxicity with methadone; or
o In cases when a methadone maintenance program is not available or accessible; or
o If a patient has been on a waiting list for three months or longer for methadone treatment.
• Counselling and addiction helpline: Counselling and addiction services are available through ConnexOntario at or through its toll-free 24/7 drug and alcohol helpline: 1-800-565-8603. ConnexOntario is funded by government;
• Withdrawal management: Detoxification programs are available across the province in both residential and community settings.

Resources for the Public and Health Professionals

Under the guidance of the Expert Working Group on Narcotic Addiction and in collaboration with the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), the ministry has developed an Opioid Advice series for health care professionals to improve outcomes for people addicted to opioids, as well as an Opioid Compendium Page to direct the public and health care providers to relevant resources.

The ministry continues to encourage health professionals who are prescribing opioids to their patients to apply best practices as outlined in the Canadian Guideline for Safe and Effective Use of Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain.

Ongoing Monitoring And Updates

To date, the review of available information indicates that there are no significant changes in population health or health system utilization as related to prescription opioids in either community or hospital settings. There have been no significant increases in demand for addiction and treatment services across the province. However, based on the accounts of frontline care providers we do understand that opioid usage patterns are changing, and that certain treatment settings have seen added pressures.

The ministry continues to work with Public Health Ontario to monitor key information related to this issue, which will help inform our ongoing response, including:

• Public health unit needle exchange programs and other harm reduction program information which includes drug use patterns and other trends within local jurisdictions. This information is reported to public health units from their substance use clients;
• Real-time surveillance of opioid-related emergency department visits and hospital admissions;
• Opioid-related deaths information from the Office of the Chief Coroner;
• The number of calls about opioid use and wait lists for addiction treatment programs. This information is collected from Ontario’s Drug and Alcohol Helpline that is provided through ConnexOntario;
• New admissions of people who identify opioids as a problem to the Ontario addiction agencies. This information is collected from the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Information System (DATIS);
• Demand for methadone services from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario; and Impact on and demand for addiction treatment programs and services from Local Health Integration Networks.


• Since 2003, Ontario has increased funding by almost 50 per cent for addiction programs.
• In 2011/12, the ministry provided $172.3 million for addiction programs for over 150 substance abuse and problem gambling treatment organizations that offer withdrawal management, community counselling, residential treatment and support services, as well as supportive housing for people with problematic substance use.


• For information on addiction, treatment and withdrawal, visit Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)online.
• Find out more about Open Minds, Healthy Minds Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

Members of the media :

Zita Astravas, 416-327-9728
Minister´s Office

Tori Gass, 416-314-6197
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

For More Information

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