Canada plans to classify tramadol as an opioid

The Canadian government plans to classify tramadol opioid following a sharp rise in prescription prescriptions for this powerful painkiller in recent years, said Wednesday the Ministry of Health.

“Health Canada has launched a review of current scientific evidence and use patterns of tramadol,” said Anna Maddison, spokesperson for the Canadian Ministry of Health, adding that a tighter rule on this drug is only available on prescription could follow this investigation.

The announcement coincides with the release of a report on opioid prescriptions released Wednesday that shows a 30% increase in tramadol prescriptions in Canada between 2012 and 2016.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) report states that, despite a general increase in opioid prescriptions in Canada, the quantities of oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, codeine and tramadol sold have gradually decreased in the wake of the opioid crisis affecting North America.

“Awareness of the opioid crisis has accelerated the decline” of the over-prescription of these pain medications, sometimes a source of dependence for patients, says CIHI.

In 2016, 2,800 people died of opioid overdose in Canada, an increase likely in 2017, according to estimates by health authorities.

A report released by the US health services also showed that “the number of emergency department visits related to inappropriate or abusive use of tramadol has increased by approximately 250% from 2005 to 2011,” says CIHI.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States consider tramadol an opioid, but the drug is not included in this category of substances strictly regulated by Canadian authorities, although the government admitted in 2007 that excessive use of the drug “could cause overdose and death”.

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