02/22/2012 04:00 EST | Updated 04/22/2012 05:12 EDT

OxyContin Canada: Saskatchewan Joins Atlantic Provinces And Ontario In Pulling Funding


TORONTO - Saskatchewan has joined Ontario and the Atlantic provinces in taking steps to stop funding the painkiller OxyContin, and a new version of the drug, OxyNeo.

The changes coincide with plans by the manufacturer, Purdue Pharma Canada of Pickering, Ont., to discontinue producing OxyContin at the end of February and replace it with OxyNeo.

Starting at the end of the month, Saskatchewan will only pay for OxyNeo for cancer or palliative care patients. Existing patients who have received coverage of OxyContin in the three months prior to March 1 will be eligible for coverage of OxyNeo.

Earlier Tuesday, Nova Scotia Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said cancer patients and those in palliative care who are already prescribed OxyContin would continue to receive the drug.

In a notice released Friday, the Ontario Health Ministry said OxyNeo would be funded through the province's Exceptional Access Program, which places prescriptions of the drug under tighter controls.

Health Canada has warned that OxyContin, taken in pill form, is a long-acting form of the highly addictive opioid oxycodone. But when the pill is chewed or crushed, then injected or inhaled, it produces a ``heroin-like euphoria.”

OxyNeo will also be made with oxycodone, but it's formulated to make abuse more difficult. The tablet is hard to crush, and when added to liquid, it forms a thick gel that stops oxycodone from being extracted for injection.