Canada Mulls New Labelling Rules to Check Misuse of Painkillers

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By Kalyan Kumar | August 21, 2014 5:00 PM EST

Canada has decided to tighten screws on rampant abuse of painkillers in the country. The Ca. News reported that Health Minister Rona Ambrose made a public announcement invoking some new rules to reduce Canada's serious medical problem.

Reuters
A doctor checks a miner, rescued from a gold mine affected by a landslide, at a hospital in Choluteca, on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa July 4, 2014. Rescuers freed three miners on Friday who had been trapped by a landslide at an illegal gold mine in southern Honduras, but eight more remained unaccounted for as the search moved into its second day. The workers were trapped when the entrance to the mine in San Juan Arriba collapsed on Wednesday. Picture taken July 4, 2014.

Early this week, Ambrose told the Canadian Medical Association conference that too many people had been abusing prescription drugs and invited suffering and death.

As a first step, the federal government will enforce stronger warning on the labels of extended- painkillers like OxyContin to enhance awareness and curb the abuse of opioids.

Consumer of Pain Killers

Of late, Canada has become the second-largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids in the world, after the United States. The minister quoted a 2012 study which said a million young Canadians between the age of 15 and 24 are using prescription drugs.

The survey by Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey also found half a million Canadians abusing prescription drugs like opioid pain relievers like Demorol and OxyContin.

The use of stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall and tranquilisers and sedatives like Valium, Ativan and Xanax is also rampant.

Not For Moderate Pain

Under the new initiatives, strong warning on opioid labels will mitigate the risks associated with all drugs. Accordingly, the new labels will remove references like "moderate" pain and clarify that opioids should be used only for managing extreme pain.

The Health Canada advisory for doctors also said that they cannot prescribe opioid drugs - morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl - for moderate pain.

Such drugs may be prescribed only for pain that is severe and require long-term treatment in which alternative options are not adequate.

Doctors Responsible

Welcoming the initiative of the Federal Government, Dr David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said labelling changes must be a part of a broader strategy to tackle the problem.

Juurlink has been a vocal critic of powerful painkillers. He said the real issue was the penchant of doctors to prescribe them. According to him, the obsession of a section of doctors in prescribing opioids is dangerous. Patients too demand increased doses after building up tolerance for the mix opioids.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse also welcomed the new step. According to Theresa Woolridge, the spokeswoman, the steps are in tune with its own recommendations on product labelling and information kit to doctors and patients.

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(Photo: Reuters / Jorge Cabrera )
A doctor checks a miner, rescued from a gold mine affected by a landslide, at a hospital in Choluteca, on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa July 4, 2014. Rescuers freed three miners on Friday who had been trapped by a landslide at an illegal gold mine in southern Honduras, but eight more remained unaccounted for as the search moved into its second day. The workers were trapped when the entrance to the mine in San Juan Arriba collapsed on Wednesday. Picture taken July 4, 2014.
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