Purdue seeks rule that would give it edge in Canadian painkiller market

Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:05am EST
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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO, Canada (Reuters) - A leading drugmaker ramped up its lobbying in Canada fivefold last year, urging government officials to enact a rule that would give it an effective monopoly on long-acting narcotic painkillers.

Purdue Pharma's efforts came as the government pledged a new attack on the county's deadly opioid crisis. The privately owned maker of the blockbuster OxyContin pushed for a requirement that all long-acting narcotic painkillers, known as opioids, be made tamper resistant.

The company, which sells the only tamper-resistant, long-acting opioids in Canada, met with 40 officeholders last year, up from eight in 2015 and three in 2014, records show.

The rule it proposed could edge out companies that don't sell tamper-resistant opioids, including Novartis’, Sandoz AG <Sandoz AG>, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Teva, Pharmascience and Apotex SA <Apotex SA> and others. Purdue said other companies make tamper-resistant opioids that they could seek approval for in Canada.

Purdue's lobbying illustrates the stakes for drugmakers in efforts to curb what policymakers have called North America’s biggest public health crisis.

Deaths involving opioids - including prescription painkillers, heroin and other street drugs - rose 38 percent in Ontario over the last five years and almost doubled in British Columbia in last year. More than 200,000 people have died in the U.S. epidemic.

Canada's $881-million annual opioid sales are dwarfed by the U.S. market, the biggest in the world. Any action by Canada is likely to attract interest south of the border.

Purdue said it was pushing for the rule to improve safety. Canadian officials have passed on that proposal and instead are looking at measures that could hurt sales of long-acting opioids, including Purdue's best-selling painkillers.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO - Prescription painkiller OxyNEO by Purdue Pharma is shown at a pharmacy, with "X" indicating not a full bottle, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on January 17, 2017.  REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang/File Photo