Collaborative research tackles prescription drug abuse

published on February 16, 2016 by Joanne Jablkowski in BC Medical Journal

The Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is investing $4.4 million to support four large regional teams of researchers, service providers, and decision makers to study how to improve the health of people who abuse prescription drugs.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health and safety problem in Canada, particularly among youth. In the 2012 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, approximately 410 000 Canadians reported abusing prescription drugs like opioid pain relievers.

The teams based in British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes have collaboratively developed the first national study to improve the health of people living with opioid dependence, “Optimizing patient centered-care: A pragmatic randomized control trial comparing models of care in the management of prescription opioid misuse (OPTIMA),” to be conducted through the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM).

The OPTIMA study will compare and evaluate two treatments for prescription opioid dependence: methadone, which is the current standard of care in Canada, and buprenorphine/naloxone, often the therapy of choice in the United States. The study will address real-world treatment conditions, including patient preference for short-term vs long-term treatment with medication, and support patient-centred approaches informing decision-making processes.

Comparison of the effectiveness of the two treatment models in reducing prescription opioid use will generate practice-based evidence for informing patient care and improving overall health outcomes in Canada. Dr Evan Wood, a professor of medicine at UBC and principal investigator of the province’s CRISM node, acknowledges that British Columbia has been particularly hard hit by prescription drug abuse and the related overdose deaths, and is excited for the BC CRISM node to be working on research to meaningfully improve public health and safety.

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