The federal health minister has until Nov. 25 to decide whether to allow drug companies to make a generic version of the painkiller Oxycontin.

The patent on the brand name version of that drug expires on that date and generic drug companies have already signalled an interest in making the opiate, known by the non-brand name oxycodone.

But Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the drug, pulled Oxycontin in March over concerns that it was being abused by drug users who altered it to make it more potent. The company replaced the drug with a new formulation called OxyNeo.

The new drug, while not tamper proof, is more difficult for addicts to alter in search of a euphoric high.

Opinion among health care professionals, and others, is mixed on what Ottawa should do.

Some argue generic drugs would help those who need a supply of affordable pain medication.

But provincial health ministers unanimously asked their federal counterpart, Leona Aglukkaq, to say no to opening OxyContin up to the generics.

Oxycontin addiction is a widespread problem, from Atlantic Canada and rural Ontario to northern First Nations communities.

The Ontario Association of Police Chiefs is also opposed.

Wayne Kalinski, deputy chief of police in Orangeville, Ont., is clear about what he believes will happen if a generic version of OxyContin is allowed back on the market.

"If we make a generic version readily available to people, it will be abused again. And that abuse will result in injury to people and deaths," he said.

Blamed for pharmacy break-ins

Pharmacies were often the target of armed robberies by addicts desperate for the drug.

Phil Emberley had his pharmacy robbed years ago.

He says since OxyNeo replaced OxyContin this year, robberies are down in cities such as Edmonton and Ottawa.

And he worries what might happen if a generic version suddenly becomes available.

"Whenever something is cheaper it becomes more accessible. Inventory levels will likely increase then as well, because not only will pharmacies have OxyNeo but they will also have generic oxycodone extended release on hand so that, once again, increases their potential as being a target, " Emberley said.

But despite this, Emberley said he recognizes the issue isn't that simple.

"The flip side is if it's more cheaply available for patients who use it appropriately, that may not be a bad thing. So you're really tempered with two different extremes in terms of public policy," he added.

Dr. Paul Gully agrees the issue is complicated. He's the senior medical advisor for Health Canada.

"It's enormously complicated, dealing with the issue of supply on the one hand, but also recognizing the huge challenge on the other hand and why people become addicted."

Gully says Health Canada is currently weighing all concerns around this issue. A final decision is expected soon.

Meanwhile, Purdue is also urging Health Canada to carefully consider whether to allow generic oxycodone, which it says would lack the abuse-deterrent features in the newer OxyNeo, such as a coating that makes the pills harder to crush down and mix with water or other solvents.

Also on HuffPost:

Check out the top 10 richest drug lords of all time, according toCelebrity Net Worth:
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  • #10 -- Al Capone ($1.3 billion)

    Brooklyn-born <a href="http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/al-capone">Al Capone</a> is one of the most notorious American gangsters of all time. During prohibition, Capone "controlled a vast criminal empire that smuggled drugs and ran prostitution and gambling outfits throughout the U.S.," <a href="http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-drug-dealers-time/#!/10-al-capone-net-worth-1-3-billion_1074/">Celebrity Net Worth</a> writes. Capone, at one time an influential mob boss in Chicago, was <a href="http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/al-capone">sentenced to 11 years</a> in federal prison in 1931. At the time of his death in 1947, Capone was worth over a billion dollars.

  • #9 -- Griselda Blanco ($2 billion)

    The only woman to make it onto this list, Griselda Blanco -- known also as the "Godmother of Cocaine" -- was a ruthless drug lord for Colombia's <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medell%C3%ADn_Cartel">Medellin cartel</a> during the 1970s and early 1980s. Blanco was assassinated in September by "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/griselda-blanco-dead-cocaine-godmother_n_1853873.html">men on motorcycles in Colombia.</a>" Blanco had reportedly spent nearly 20 years in a U.S. prison before she was deported to her home country. At her height, Blanco is said to have been worth <a href="http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-drug-dealers-time/#!/9-griselda-blanco-net-worth-2-billion_1075/">around $2 billion. </a>

  • #8 -- Carlos Lehder ($2.7 billion)

    <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/interviews/toro.html">Carlos Lehder</a>, co-founder of the Medellin Cartel, is a German-Colombian drug dealer who is currently serving a <a href="http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-drug-dealers-time/#!/8-carlos-lehder-net-worth-2-7-billion_1076/">55 year sentence </a>in a federal prison in the U.S.

  • #7 -- Orejuela Brothers ($3 billion)

    Brothers Gilberto (left) and Miguel Orejuela founded Colombia's notorious <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cali_cartel">Cali Cartel</a>, which "at its peak supplied 70 percent of all the cocaine in the U.S. and 90 percent of the cocaine in Europe," according to <a href="http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-drug-dealers-time/#!/7-the-orejuela-brothers-net-worth-3-billion_1077/">Celebrity Net Worth</a>. Both brothers are currently serving prison sentences in the U.S.

  • #6 -- José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha ($5 billion)

    <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Gonzalo_Rodriguez_Gacha">Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha</a> was another co-founder of the Medellin Cartel (all six of them made the top 10). Gacha, acknowledged as one of the most successful drug dealers of all time, was <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/cron/">killed in a bloody shootout</a> by Colombian police in 1989, PBS writes. Thousands of mourners reportedly attended his funeral. In 1988, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/erincarlyle/2012/03/13/billionaire-druglords-el-chapo-guzman-pablo-escobar-the-ochoa-brothers/">Forbes Magazine</a> included Gacha in their annual list of the world's billionaires.

  • #5 -- Khun Sa ($5 billion)

    <a href="http://www.economist.com/node/10097596?story_id=10097596&CFID=26317033&CFTOKEN=13306592.stm">Khun Sa</a>, known famously as the "Opium King," took an army of men into the jungles of Burma to cultivate opium in the 1960s. At the peak of his power, Sa had 20,000 men in his army and was trading some of the "<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/pablo-escobar-named-richest-drug-dealer-of-all-time-2012-10">largest quantities of pure heroin ever</a>," Business Insider writes. <a href="http://www.economist.com/node/10097596?story_id=10097596&CFID=26317033&CFTOKEN=13306592.stm">Sa died in 2007</a> at the age of 73, reports the Economist.

  • #4 -- Ochoa Brothers ($6 billion)

    The three Ochoa brothers -- <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/interviews/ochoajorge.html">Jorge</a> (left), Fabio (right) and Juan David (not pictured) -- founded the Medellin Cartel along with Carlos Lehder, Jose Gacha and Pablo Escobar, <a href="http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-drug-dealers-time/#!/4-the-ochoa-brothers-net-worth-6-billion_1080/">Celebrity Net Worth writes.</a> All three made the <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/erincarlyle/2012/03/13/billionaire-druglords-el-chapo-guzman-pablo-escobar-the-ochoa-brothers/">Forbes' first World's Billionaires list</a> in 1997 and Jorge and Juan David are said to have been worth $6 billion each at the peak of their success (<a href="http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-drug-dealers-time">Fabio's net worth is unknown</a>). The Ochoa brothers, all of whom have spent time behind bars, have since lost their fortunes. While his two brothers have since been released from prison, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/cron/">Fabio Ochoa</a> is <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabio_Ochoa_V%C3%A1squez">serving a 30 year sentence</a> at a federal prison.

  • #3 -- Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar ($6.7 billion)

    <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawood_Ibrahim#Recent_events">Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar</a> is "<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/pablo-escobar-named-richest-drug-dealer-of-all-time-2012-10">India's most wanted criminal</a>," Business Insider writes. The head of the Indian organized crime syndicate D-Company in Mumbai, Kaskar is currently on Interpol's wanted list of organized crime and counterfeiting. Earlier this year, Kaskar's name was in the news again when a UK court <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/Europe/UK-court-orders-extradition-of-Dawood-s-aide/Article1-849884.aspx">ordered the extradition of his aide, Tiger Hanif</a> -- who is wanted in India for his alleged involvement in the planning of two bomb attacks in Gujarat in 1993, the Hindustan Times writes. For more, watch this video on <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXB1m2ZPuig">News X Live.</a>

  • #2 -- Amado Carrillo Fuentes ($25 billion)

    Mexican drug kingpin <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amado_Carrillo_Fuentes">Amado Carrillo Fuentes</a> became the head of the Juarez Cartel after assassinating his boss Rafael Guajardo. Fuentes, known as "Lord of the Skies" because of the large fleet of airplanes he used to transport drugs, was described as <a href="http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/1999/September/432crm.htm">one of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world</a> by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1999. Fuentes eventually died in a Mexican hospital in 1997 after <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/pablo-escobar-named-richest-drug-dealer-of-all-time-2012-10">undergoing extensive plastic surgery</a> to change his appearance, Business Insider notes.

  • #1 -- Pablo Escobar ($30 billion)

    With his fellow Medellin Cartel co-founders all making the list, it seems appropriate that drug kingpin <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Escobar">Pablo Escobar</a> -- the leader of the largest cocaine organization in history -- would top this list with a peak net worth of $30 billion. As Celebrity Net Worth notes, when Escobar "<a href="http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-drug-dealers-time/#!/1-pablo-escobar-net-worth-30-billion_1083/">was eventually captured, the Colombian government built him a luxurious prison called La Catedral.</a> He eventually escaped and was gunned down in 1993 on the roof of a Medellin apartment." And if Escobar was included on the <a href="http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/">Forbes Billionaire rankings today</a>? <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/pablo-escobar-named-richest-drug-dealer-of-all-time-2012-10">He'd be tied for seventh place</a>, notes Business Insider.