DEA Head Blames OxyContin Manufacturer for Abuse of Drug
"Aggressive promotion" of the painkiller OxyContin by manufacturer Purdue Pharma has "played a role in its widespread abuse," Drug Enforcement Administration Director Asa Hutchinson told lawmakers yesterday, the New York Times reports (Meier, New York Times, 12/12). In a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary, Hutchinson "partly blamed" Purdue Pharma for the "disproportionate abuse" of OxyContin compared to similar drugs (Hardin, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/12). The DEA has attributed 117 deaths in 31 states over the past two years to OxyContin and has cited the drug as the "likely cause" in 179 additional deaths (Las Vegas Sun, 12/12). "I don't believe we've reached the peak of this problem yet," Hutchinson said (White, Washington Post, 12/12). According to Hutchinson, Purdue Pharma offered incentives to sales representatives to sell "large quantities" of OxyContin and sent doctors on "expense-paid retreats" to encourage them to prescribe the drug (Las Vegas Sun, 12/12). Lawmakers said at the hearing that Purdue Pharma has not "done enough to stop OxyContin from gaining hold" in illegal markets and accused the company of "promoting its popular drug to people who don't need it" (Washington Post, 12/12). Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chair of the subcommittee, said that he would ask the General Accounting Office to investigate marketing practices at Purdue Pharma to determine whether the company "overpromoted" OxyContin. The company earned $1 billion in sales from OxyContin last year. All those who testified said that they support a "far broader use" of electronic systems to identify individuals who "seek to fill unusually large numbers" of prescriptions and doctors who "write disproportionately high numbers of them" (New York Times, 12/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.