Oxycontin Makers Asked to Limit Marketing, Distribution
In its first effort to curb misuse of a specific prescription drug, the Drug Enforcement Administration has asked Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue Pharma LP to limit its distribution and marketing of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, the New York Times reports. In the past, the agency has tried to reduce abuse of certain classes of drugs, but the case of OxyContin is "so grave ... it required unique action." According to government officials, "no prescription drug in the last 20 years has been to widely abused so soon after its release as OxyContin." OxyContin, the leading narcotic painkiller sold in tablet form in the United States, has contributed to more than 120 drug overdose deaths, authorities say. DEA official Terry Woodworth speculated that doctors prescribed OxyContin "so readily" because they believed ... it was less prone to abuse." OxyContin's "time-released form ... was first thought" to deter illicit use, but abusers discovered that the drug could be crushed or dissolved, giving them "immediate access" to a synthetic form of morphine called oxycodone. Woodworth said the DEA has asked Purdue officials to voluntarily limit the drug's distribution to specialists who regularly treat patients for chronic or severe pain.
Since OxyContin's approval, Purdue has "aggressively marketed the drug," holding about 7,000 "pain management" seminars and paying the travel expenses of hundreds of doctors who attend the events. For their part, Purdue officials say they have "responsibly marketed and promoted OxyContin" and have "moved swiftly to combat misuse of the drug." Company officials said that they have stopped sponsoring seminar trips for doctors. While they acknowledged the DEA's request that the company limit marketing and distribution practices, Purdue officials "declined to elaborate on how the company would respond," the Times reports. Purdue officials did say that they are working to reformulate OxyContin (Meier, New York Times, 5/1).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.