Hospital CEO says medical staff had no warning of OxyContin’s end

by Alicia McCutcheon

MANITOULIN—Manitoulin Health Centre Chief Executive Officer Derek Graham said the news of the demise of the opiate painkiller OxyContin came as a surprise to he and his staff as news arrived at the hospital, via fax, the same day the rest of Ontario learned of the narcotic’s discontinuation from pharmacy shelves.

The Expositor reported last week that long-acting OxyContin, created by Purdue Pharma, would be phased out and replaced with OxyNEO—a drug with the same painkilling benefits, but with different properties that should make the pill harder to abuse by crushing, snorting or injecting.

“From the information we received, it (the process of discontinuation) is sort of unclear to us,” Mr. Graham admitted. “We’re looking for a transition plan.”

The CEO noted the MHC was also unclear as to when stocks of OxyContin are expected to run low and what the availability of OxyNEO will be like.

“We’re concerned from the standpoint of what the impact might be, but we don’t have a very good appreciation of what our response will be,” Mr. Graham said. “It kind of just came out of the blue. It really caught us off guard, and I don’t know if that was done on purpose.”

The CEO said there had yet to be a system-wide response and in fact, there had been no response as of last Friday, but he felt positive they (North East Local Health Integrated Network, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, etcetera) were “looking at it.”

“Right now there’s a bit of a vacuum,” he added. “Our community withdrawal management service is designed to help people form a support mechanism who wish to move away from addiction. They do an assessment then help through either in-patient treatment or detox.”

“There could potentially be a lot of people going through withdrawals at the same time and our system’s not just set up for that,” Mr. Graham said, noting that users may choose to seek out other substances to deal with the symptoms, potentially creating a cyclical affect.