The Canadian government should tighten up controls on the importation and sale of tablet presses in order to help crack down on the trade in counterfeit painkillers, say police.
Law enforcement agencies are calling on the government to follow the lead of Alberta, which recently passed a bill restricting the purchase of pill presses, table machines, capsule filling machines and pharmaceutical mixers unless the buyer holds a license.
Under the Alberta law, anyone found guilty of illegally possessing a press will face a fine of C$50,000 ($39,000) or a first offence rising to C$125,000 and up to six months in jail for a second conviction. A third offence will see the fine rise to C$375,000 and jail time of up to 12 months.
Rolling out such controls nationally would be a major step forward in the fight against illicit opioid drugs, which have claimed live and caused serious injury in Canada, according to police in British Columbia, which like Alberta has suffered from an epidemic in prescription drug abuse and dozens of fatal overdoses.
Counterfeit Oxycontin tablets that contain fentanyl instead of oxycodone have been blamed for the bulk of overdose-related deaths.
Earlier this month, the Canadian government also imposed a ban on a very strong and unapproved opioid drug called W-18 which has been found in tablets made to appear like legitimate prescription tablets, including oxycodone.
The government says it is considering a clampdown on tablet presses and other pharmaceutical production equipment. It adds that it has invested over C$44m over five years to address prescription drug abuse, including increased public awareness, enhancing addictions prevention and treatment services and improving data, surveillance and reporting on prescription drug abuse.