Oxycodone is a narcotic frequently used as a pain reliever for the treatment of moderate to severe short-term and long-term pain as well as palliative care for the terminally ill. It produces an opiate-like effect similar to morphine in all aspects including its abuse and dependence.
Oxycodone has been available for many years in combination with acetaminophen or ASA in the short acting pain reliever commonly known as Percocet« (generic names are Endocet« and Oxycocet«) or Percodan« (generic names are Endodan« and Oxycodan«). The amount of oxycodone present in these short acting pain relievers ranges from 2.5mg to 5mg per tablet.
In recent years, another short acting oxycodone tablet was introduced to the market under the brand name Supeudol« and Oxy IR«, containing 5, 10, or 20mg of oxycodone per tablet. A long acting dosage form of oxycodone has also been introduced to the market which contains between 10mg and 80mg of oxycodone per tablet. This long acting tablet marketed under the brand name OxyContin«, is formulated to release oxycodone over a long period of time. However, when crushed or chewed and either inhaled by the nose, injected or swallowed, the oxycodone will be released and absorbed rapidly producing a heroin-like effect euphoria. For this reason, OxyContin« is often referred to as "Hillbilly Heroin".
When oxycodone-based prescription drugs are taken as directed by a physician for a short period of time, most patients will not develop a dependency for the product. However, similar to other opioids, misuse and abuse can easily lead to dependence and tolerance to oxycodone, requiring more frequent and higher doses.
Health Canada is aware of increasing concerns about the possible misuse and abuse of oxycodone-based products in Canada, particularly in Atlantic Canada.
Health Canada has met with key Atlantic stakeholders including the provincial ministries of Health and licensing authorities for pharmacists and physicians to discuss their concerns about the prescribing and usage of controlled substances, especially oxycodone. As a result of the consultations, Health Canada undertook a review of all sales transactions of oxycodone-based products in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. To date, only estimates regarding the volume of prescriptions and transactions of oxycodone-based products in Atlantic Canada were available. Please note that one prescription can generate a number of transactions.
The review undertaken by Health Canada, led to a report which helps to establish baseline information regionally and provincially for a six-month period, for a number of key indicators including the volume of transactions. This report was shared with the Atlantic ministries of Health, and licensing authorities of pharmacists and physicians in July, 2005, for their information and to complement their activities in the area of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.
Although the most explicit concerns about the possible abuse and misuse of oxycodone-based products have been voiced in Atlantic Canada, the report provides knowledge that could be helpful to other jurisdictions.
Health Canada has established a federal, provincial and territorial committee to discuss issues including the abuse of narcotics, controlled substances, alcohol and prescription drugs. Health Canada will continue to work with these jurisdictions and other stakeholders to address issues associated with substance abuse.
A roundtable discussion on the specific issue of abuse of pharmaceuticals is also being planned under Canada's Drug Strategy.
Canadians are encouraged to speak to a health care provider if they have questions about prescription drugs and substance abuse. Canadians can also visit the following sites for more information: