In Canada oxycodone exists in regular oral, controlled-release oral and combination preparations sold under various trade names, including OxyContin, Supeudol, Endocet and Oxycocet. Oxycodone has been on the market for many years, marketed in combination with acetaminophen or ASA in the short acting pain reliever commonly known as Percocet or Percodan.
About six years ago, a long acting dosage form of oxycodone containing between 10 mg and 80 mg per tablet was approved by Health Canada and marketed under the brand name OxyContin. This drug was formulated to be time-released but it was soon discovered that, if the tablet was crushed or chewed and either inhaled or injected, it would produce a heroin-like effect.
Consequently, OxyContin is also referred to as "Hillbilly Heroin". The term was coined because Oxycontin abuse is rampant throughout mainly poor and rural regions of the US.
But it has also become a huge problem in Canada, particularly in the Atlantic provinces. In 2003, pharmacists dispensed 2.8 million prescriptions for oxycodone drugs in Canada, most of them in Ontario, and the most popular brand was OxyContin. According to CTV.ca, in 2003 more than 100 people died with oxycodone in their systems in Ontario alone -- 10 times more than a decade ago.
In the late 1990s Ontario's Chief Coroner, Dr. Barry McLellan, asked that forensic scientists go back and review death files from people with drug overdoses for the past five years. They found that between 1999 and 2003 there had been between a four- and five-fold increase in deaths where oxycodone had been detected in the blood of the deceased.
Because Oxycontin posed such a health risk, a task force was set up in the two Atlantic provinces and in 2004, it recommended a series of measures, from tamper-proof prescription pads to youth education campaigns warning of OxyContin addiction risks.
In a recent Virginia Court ruling found drug makers Purdue Pharma and three company executives pleaded guilty to misbranding (a criminal offence). The Virginia charges brought fines of more than $600 million against the drug maker for fraudulently promoting a drug for an unapproved use after the executives admitted they had made false claims regarding the drug's high addiction risk.
In the wake of the US ruling, the Newfoundland and Labrador government is determining whether it has grounds to sue Purdue Pharma over the millions of dollars spent treating OxyContin addicts. Currently, other provinces are looking at similar litigation.
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"At first it just made me feel better, painwise," says Richard Dorn (not his real name). "but after a while I had to have it." Lawsuits across the country are alleging that OxyContin's maker knew or ought to have known that ingesting Oxycontin leads to drug dependency and addiction.
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A University of Victoria study, encompassing seven Canadian cities, has revealed that Oxycontin and other prescription opioids are more popular than heroin among drug abusers in Canada.
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Oxycontin Canada Legal HelpIf you or a loved one has become addicted to Oxycontin, please click the link below to send your complaint to a Canadian lawyer who will evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.
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