Province cracks down on OxyContin use
The province is placing new restrictions on people's access to the prescription painkiller OxyContin in an effort to curb the illegal use of the drug.
OxyContin, a derivative of the opium poppy, is highly addictive and known on the street as "Hillbilly Heroin" because of the narcotic effects it produces.
The illegal sale of the drug has been increasing on the streets of Winnipeg in recent years.
A single tablet can sell for as little as $5, depending on available supply. In rural areas of Manitoba, the drug is often sold for much more, sometimes as high as $40 per dose.
To combat the misuse of the drug, only patients with cancer or other chronic conditions where an alternate painkiller can't be used for medical reasons will be allowed a prescription for OxyContin, Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau said on Wednesday.
As well, doctors will also be required to seek approval from Manitoba Health to prescribe the drug and be covered under the provincial Pharmacare program.
Patients currently holding OxyContin prescriptions will be given a two-month grace period before the new coverage rule applies to them, Rondeau said.
In a statement, Rondeau said the government will also be supporting additional measures to wean addicts off of OxyContin.
"We know that is important for physicians to have OxyContin as part of their arsenal when treating a patient who has pain that is difficult to control," Rondeau said.
"But when used outside of a physician's direction, it can be harmful or even lethal … we have to do everything we can to facilitate appropriate use," Rondeau said.