Earlier this week, our Health Minister Eric Hoskin made an announcement to increase access of Suboxone as part of the Comprehensive Opioid Strategy in Ontario.
Previously, Suboxone was primarily available in the Ontario Drug Benefits formulary as a limited use drug. This has now changed to general benefit which means it can be prescribed without any restriction.
Suboxone is actually a sublingual tablet containing two medications, buprenorphine and naloxone. It is the buprenorphine component of the medication that helps with the treatment of opioid dependence. Unlike methadone which is also used for the treatment of opioid dependence, Suboxone does not require the same monitoring requirement and is deemed to be much safer. The addition of the naloxone (which is used on its own for opioid reversal) does not make Suboxone more effective but it may reduce the potential abuse of buprenorphine.
There is currently a free Suboxone Education Program available to physicians, nurses, pharmacists and addiction counsellors. It is a prerequisite education for any healthcare professional involved in the care of patients with opioid addiction.
I think this is a smart move. Along with easier access to Suboxone, other initiatives that are part of the comprehensive opioid strategy include the following:
- Delisting of High dose Opioids
- Patch-to-Patch Fentanyl Program
- Improved Access to Naloxone
Perhaps we are finally seeing some real actions to help manage the ongoing opioid crisis.