People who worry that a cheaper version of the painkiller OxyContin will lead to more abuse will have their fears put to the test.

A generic form of the drug has been given the green light by Health Canada, despite calls for a delay from provincial health ministers.

Daniel Comeau didn’t live in Glace Bay when the community was ravaged by OxyContin abuse eight to 10 years ago, but he has heard the horror stories.

Comeau is among those who predict a cheaper version of the drug will easily find its way to the black market.

“Eventually it will trickle down and lead to a negative effect on the community,” he says. “It’s inevitable. It’s what happens in small towns. It’s like a communicable disease.”

John MacEachern chairs the Association for Safer Cape Breton Communities.

He says there is no evidence the problem has anything to do with price. 

“More and more of the OxyContin is being stolen from patients or being sold by patients,” says MacEachern.

“That seems to be the biggest supply of drugs that is going out there. So, it’s not a question of whether it is more or less expensive.”

In approving the drug, Health Canada is promising tighter restrictions that would require manufacturers and pharmacists to report any unusual distribution patterns or fluctuations in sales.

However, many worry that no matter how tight the rules are, it will be difficult to keep widely-abused drugs out of the wrong hands.

MacEachern says those who control the availability of prescription drugs through prescriptions and pharmaceutical records are already on the right track.

”If you check the records in the last ten years, there has been an incredible drop in the availability of OxyContin, both by the doctor’s office and on the street,” says MacEachern.

MacEachern believes the approval of generic OxyContin means communities will have to remain vigilant and continue the lessons learned from previous tragedies in the community.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald