NYT Looks at Use and Abuse Oxycontin
The New York Times today in a front page story examines how the growth in the prescription use of the narcotic pain killer OxyContin has coincided with the illegal use of the drug, resulting in at least 120 deaths to date. OxyContin sales have exceeded $1 billion since its introduction in 1995, and many patients who suffered severe chronic pain credit the drug with relieving their symptoms. But the drug has also become one of the most heavily abused prescription medications in the past two decades, and many doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement officials say that the marketing practices of Purdue Pharma -- OxyContin's maker -- has contributed to the problem. Specifically, they contend that Purdue Pharma "curr[ied] favor" with physicians by providing them with free trips and paid speaking engagements, yet failed to provide "adequate warning of [OxyContin's] potential for abuse." The outbreak of OxyContin abuse has led regulators to examine ways it could have been prevented. The FDA, for instance, is "reassessing how it reviews prescription narcotics for potential abuse," and Purdue Pharma has taken steps to reduce this potential, including a plan to reformulate the drug to make it "less appealing to abusers." And several hospitals have begun screening OxyContin users to ensure that they are taking the drug in proper amounts and not selling it to others (Meier/Petersen, New York Times, 3/5).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.