In 2017, the ODPRN was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) to establish an Ontario Opioid Drug Observatory with the goal of bringing together knowledge users, researchers and data to inform and evaluate opioid policy across Ontario. As the opioid crisis has worsened, this need for evidence has grown and evolved. Through the innovative work of the OODO, we have supported the linkage of all opioid prescriptions, opioid-related deaths, and pharmacy-dispensed naloxone to other health administrative databases across the province; the largest, most complete linked repository of data related to opioid use and related harms in Canada.
The ODPRN has conducted important research in this area since 2008 which has helped inform policy in the area [learn more about past opioid research here]. Most research conducted in this area in Ontario has been limited to studying government-reimbursed prescriptions. However, because most Canadians do not receive publicly-funded drug coverage, we have had large gaps in our understanding of opioid prescribing and its consequences.
Through linkage of a broad repository of health care data, the work of the OODO has three broad objectives:
- Patterns of Use and Harm: To conduct ongoing analysis of trends in prescription opioid use and opioid-related harm (overdoses, infections, brain injuries) in Ontario and evaluate the impact of new drug policies and the COVID-19 pandemic on these measures.
- Access to Treatment and Harm Reduction Strategies: To evaluate the safety, effectiveness, and barriers to accessing different forms of treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) and harm reduction strategies (naloxone, safer opioid supply) across the province.
- Pathways through Care: To assess how rapid access to treatment and primary care impact future patterns of healthcare use and patient outcomes among people hospitalized for serious opioid-related outcomes.
In Ontario, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the ongoing opioid overdose crisis. There is an urgent need to better understand patterns of healthcare use among people who died of an opioid-related toxicity during the pandemic, particularly amid the pandemic-related disruptions to healthcare services and increasing rates of unintentional deaths due to opioid-related toxicity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ODPRN, the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario/Ontario Forensic Pathology Service (OCC/OFPS) and Public Health Ontario (PHO) have developed a new report describing patterns of medication and healthcare use among people who died of an opioid-related toxicity in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic up to the end of December 2020. In addition, this report will focus on describing these same characteristics and patterns of healthcare use among people who were experiencing homelessness in order to inform supportive approaches that can be tailored specifically for this population.
This report follows a report that describes changing circumstances surrounding opioid-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as preliminary patterns during the first three months of the pandemic.
Access the full report and associated resources:
The Ontario Prescription Opioid Tool allows public access to data related to indicators for opioid prescribing in the province from 2012 onwards. It uses data from the Narcotics Monitoring System (NMS), which captures all opioid prescriptions dispensed in retail pharmacies across Ontario.
This tool was made to complement Public Health Ontario’s interactive tool on opioid-related harms and will be updated on an approximately quarterly basis.
If you are interested in this work and would like to receive updates, please fill out this form.