New measures aim to reduce barriers to methadone and diacetylmorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder and emergency funding for treatment to tackle the opioid crisis
March 26, 2018 - Ottawa, ON - Government of Canada
The opioid crisis continues to have a devastating impact on families and communities across the country. In 2017 alone, projections suggest over 4,000 people will have lost their lives as a result of this epidemic. Despite significant actions taken to date, more needs to be done to help address the crisis and save lives.
Today, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, announced a number of important initiatives to help address the opioid crisis.
First, the Minister announced that the Government of Canada is removing barriers to accessing diacetylmorphine (prescription heroin) and methadone for the treatment of opioid use disorder. These regulatory amendments will help Canadians have greater access to a comprehensive array of treatment options. For example, for methadone, health care practitioners will be able to prescribe and administer methadone treatment without needing to apply for an exemption from federal law. For diacetylmorphine, the amendments will provide flexibility by allowing patients to receive the product outside a hospital setting, such as substance use disorder clinics, thereby allowing patients to balance their daily responsibilities with their treatment. The regulatory amendments were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II on March 21, 2018.
Second, Minister Petitpas Taylor announced $18 million in federal investments for six innovative projects under the Substance Use and Addictions Program, and ten research projects related to opioids funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). These projects will explore drug checking in supervised consumption sites, opioid use in pain management, the development of guidance material for prevention and treatment of opioid use disorder, and to look at how opioid-related treatment can better address the needs of women.
Third, the Health Minister announced details of the $231.4 million investments proposed in Budget 2018 to improve access to treatment, address stigma and gather more data to help address the opioid crisis. These investments include:
- $150 million in emergency funding for provinces and territories to increase access to evidence-based treatment;
- $13.5 million towards innovative approaches to treatment and prevention through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program;
- $18.7 million over five years to address stigma faced by people who use drugs, including launching a new national, multi-year public education campaign to help reshape Canadians’ attitudes and perceptions about people who use drugs;
- $31.6 million to equip border officers with tools to intercept fentanyl and other dangerous substances at the border; and
- $17.9 million to expand the evidence base to inform and evaluate our response to the opioid crisis, including accelerating access to public health data and analysis.
Minister Petitpas Taylor concluded the event by thanking the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) for its recently released report and recommendations on removing regulatory barriers to methadone treatment and its expertise on developing a national clinical practice guideline on the management of opioid use disorders. These recommendations helped shape the regulatory amendments announced today on methadone.
“We should not judge people with substance use problems but instead make sure they are getting the help they need, when they want it. The changes we announce today will allow health care practitioners to prescribe and administer methadone treatment without needing to apply for an exemption. The new funding proposed in Budget 2018 will also help us improve treatment, reduce stigma and gather more data to reverse the heartbreaking trend of opioid-related deaths in Canada.”
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health
“There’s no doubt that the illegal production and trafficking of opioids, including fentanyl, have contributed to a public health crisis in Canada. We recognize that this is a complex social, health and public safety issue and we are committed to an approach to this crisis that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate and evidence-based.”
The Honourable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
“It is important for us to signal to those who use drugs and the people around them that treatment is an individualized journey. Better access to treatment options and additional funding announced today will enhance our collective ability to respond to address the opioid crisis in a comprehensive and collaborative manner.”
Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
- Methadone and diacetylmorphine, or pharmaceutical-grade heroin, are medications that can be used to treat opioid use disorder.
- Health Canada has heard from stakeholders that any barriers to accessing treatment can deter patients and doctors from using them. This is why Health Canada is removing federal barriers to methadone and diacetylmorphine.
- The Government of Canada is focusing on three key areas as part of its comprehensive and evidence-based approach to saving lives and addressing the opioid crisis:
- Working with provinces and territories to increase access to treatment;
- Supporting innovative approaches to addressing the opioid crisis; and
- Addressing the stigma related to opioid use.
- The Substance Use and Addictions Program is a federal contributions program that provides financial support to provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders to strengthen responses to drug and substance use issues in Canada.
- Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government is funding scientists whose work is helping to provide the evidence of which interventions work best to treat pain, prevent opioid overdoses and how to treat opioid use disorder and promote harm reduction.
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Office of Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health
Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada