Fighting opioid addiction problem? Tamper-resistant drugs not the key say experts

Chronic opioid therapy is risky, Canadian study suggests
Researchers note that opioid deaths now represent more than 40 per cent of all mortality from poisoning in North America today, outnumbering deaths from alcoholic liver disease and HIV.

Opioid addiction is a huge problem in a number of countries including US and Canada and to fight this issue governments in both the countries have been promoting tamper-resistant drugs. However, experts have claimed that Tamper-resistant formulations of drugs will not solve the problems of opioid addiction and overdose.

In an commentary published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), Dr. Pamela Leece, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and coauthors have aruged that misuse and diversion of opioids is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive solution and a simple measure of substituting one formulation with another will not work.

Governments in Canada and the United States have been promoting tamper-resistant formulations, which are more difficult to crush, snort or inject, to prevent addiction and other harms as opioid users are known to tamper with prescription medicines including tablets, capsules or patches for a faster ‘kick’.

Canada and the US are the highest per-capita users of narcotics in the world. Oxycodone prescriptions in Ontario rose 850% from 1991 to 2007, and deaths from opioids doubled between 1991 and 2004.

Though some studies have indicated that there has been a decline in opioid abuse since the introduction of tamper-resistant formulations, there is increasing evidence that the overall number of deaths has not decreased. People who are addicted to opioids will use other types of opioids as well as heroin, which can cause lethal overdoses.

“Regulations requiring tamper resistance represent an expensive, technical approach that is influenced by pharmaceutical interests and cannot solve the opioid crisis. An evidence-based, multifaceted strategy is needed — one that has real potential to curb opioid-related harms at a population level,” the authors conclude.