TORONTO - OxyContin and the drug replacing it are being removed from the list of drugs that Ontario normally funds.

The maker of OxyContin, which is up to twice as strong as morphine, will stop manufacturing the drug in Canada at the end of the month.

As of March 1, Purdue Pharma Canada will replace OxyContin with a new formulation called OxyNEO.

In a notice released today, the Ontario Health Ministry said it's removing OxyContin from the Ontario Drug Benefit formulary as of Feb. 29.

Its replacement OxyNeo will be funded through the province's Exceptional Access Program -- a change which means the prescription of the drug will fall under tighter controls.

The ministry says it's taking that step in light of recent studies that suggest increased rates of opioid prescribing -- oxycodone in particular -- is contributing "significantly to opioid-related harms and death."

It notes that Ontario has the highest rate of narcotics use in Canada.

OxyContin, taken orally in pill form, is a long-acting form of the highly addictive opioid oxycodone. But when the pill is chewed or crushed, then injected or inhaled, it produces a "heroin-like euphoria," Health Canada says.

OxyNEO will also be made with oxycodone, but it's formulated to make abuse more difficult: the tablet is hard to crush and when added to liquid, it forms a thick gel that stops oxycodone from being extracted for injection.

Ontario patients prescribed OxyContin will continue to receive it for one month, but all coverage of OxyContin will end on April 2.

After that date, those patients will receive OxyNEO for a year. If the drug is required after that time the patient will need approval through the Exceptional Access Program.