Health Canada to beef up safety information on labels of prescription opioids

OTTAWA — Health Canada is planning to update labels on all prescription opioids to strengthen safety information for those taking the powerful and potentially addictive pain killers.

The announcement Friday follows the federal department’s assessment of recommendations made by the Scientific Advisory Panel on Opioid Use and Contraindications.

Health Canada says it is working with manufacturers to update the labelling of all prescription opioids by January 2019.

A total of 508 prescription opioids are being reviewed and updates to their labels will be prioritized based on risk.

The updates include recommendations for a daily dose threshold for managing chronic non-cancer, non-palliative pain and for limiting the amounts of the drugs prescribed for acute pain.

Labels will also clarify warnings for patients at greater risk of harm from opioids, such as pregnant women and those with a history of dependence or substance-use disorder.

“Canada is facing an opioid crisis that is claiming the lives of many Canadians from all walks of life,” Health Canada said in a release. “Patients receiving prescription opioids and treating physicians need a clear understanding of the risks associated with these medications to make informed decisions about how to use them as safely as possible or whether to use them at all.”