FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA, February 14, 2018 — Three leading researchers with expertise on opioids met with Parliamentarians at a Health Research Caucus Luncheon on Parliament Hill today. The event was organized by Research Canada as a part of a series of luncheons aimed at highlighting critical and emerging areas of health research and innovation.
Dr. Hance Clarke, Director of Pain Services, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute at UHN; Dr. Bernard Le Foll, Medical Head, Addiction Medicine Service, and Head, Translational Addiction Research Laboratory, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; and Dr. Edward Sellers Professor Emeritus, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and Principal, DL Global Partners Inc., presented before Parliamentarians.
“Canadian researchers like Drs. Clarke, Le Foll and Sellers are leading the world in finding solutions to the opioid crisis. With support for their work and an optimal policy framework, Canada can see a translation of their groundbreaking research into innovative solutions that save Canadian lives,” says Dr. Robert McMaster, Chair of Research Canada and Vice President of Research at Vancouver Coastal Health.
Canadians are familiar with reports about the crisis affecting all regions of Canada. Tragically, 2,800 Canadian lives were lost last year due to overdose from prescription opioids or illicit drugs laced with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids. Canada leads the world in opioid analgesic prescription. Dr. Hance Clarke reminded Parliamentarians of the scale of opioid use in his home province. In 2015/16, one in seven Ontarians filled an opioid prescription; almost 2 million people filled over nine million prescriptions.
Canadian researchers are investigating opiates with lower potential for abuse, new non-opiate analgesics, non-addictive treatments for pain (including stem cells) and devices and treatments for those currently addicted. Scientists are also working on genetically targeted risk prevention and treatment.
The three experts urged better data collections systems and focused support for health systems to deploy the full range of non-pharmacologic and safer medications for treating pain, along with research to improve the understanding of the genetics of risk prevention and treatment.
Dr. Sellers pointed to successes with reformulated Oxycontin, which has had a marked effect on misuse, abuse, overdoses, and fatalities. Dr. Clarke spoke of the success of the UHN in Toronto where the world’s first Transitional Pain service was created, weaning 35% of long-term opioid users off this class of drugs.
Dr. LeFoll warned of tremendous gaps in access to effective treatment in Canada and the need for increased research on how to implement evidence-based treatments. He advised Parliamentarians that Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) remains highly underutilized even though it decreases opioid use, overdose deaths, criminal activity and transmission of infectious disease. Opiate antagonists (drugs used to prevent those addicted from taking opiates again) such as Injectable Naltrexone and Buprenorphine are not yet available in Canada or difficult to access. Dr. LeFoll pointed to research that drug policy changes may lead to a reduction in deaths.
Research Canada will continue to monitor and share advances in opioid research with the Parliamentary Health Research Caucus.
About Research Canada: An Alliance for Health Discovery
Research Canada is a national, broad-based alliance dedicated to increasing investments in health research through collaborative advocacy. We believe health research is a shared benefit, shared responsibility and an investment in Canada’s future. We engage government, academia, industry and non-profit sectors to build support for balanced and long-term health research funding – investments that strengthen Canada’s innovation system and lead to better health, sustainable health care, new commercialization opportunities, and skilled jobs for Canadians.
About the Parliamentary Health Research Caucus Luncheon Events
Health Research Caucus luncheon events are organized by Research Cana-da as exclusive, by-invitation-only events, where the Parliamentary Health Research Caucus Members invite a selection of Parliamentarians from their respective parties to attend a more intimate gathering of colleagues where experts in a particular research and/or technology field present to Parliamentarians. These events afford ample time for discussion and interaction among invited guests. They may include kiosk displays.