Monthly Archives: November 2009

Oxy is the new crystal meth: editorial

This editorial in the Daily Campus – based in OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma’s home state – asserts that the number of people who legitimately need the drug is far less than the number the drug is marketed to. Comparing the Oxy epidemic to the crystal meth scourge, it calls on Purdue to deliver on its promises to bring a less-abusable form of the drug to market, noting that Oxy-related deaths have become so prevalent that a specific “OxyContin verified” category on coroner’s reports has been created. Oxy is “one of the very few cases of name-brand causes of death,” the editorial says.

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Calif. doctors urged to use drug monitoring database

In an editorial in the Lake County Record-Bee, Katy Sweeny recounts some of her experiences as a receptionist for a medical clinic in Chico, Calif. where she says some doctors handed out opioids “like candy.” She says that checking to see whether patients were drug seekers was inefficient in a fast-paced medical clinic, and that doctors didn’t have the chance to counsel patients on the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Sweeny calls for physicians to utilize the state’s new online prescription drug monitoring database for pharmacists and physicians to find out if a patient has been “doctor-shopping.” The system, known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), was introduced in September.

According to California state authorities, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 20 to 30 percent of California’s drug abusers primarily use prescription drugs. In addition, a 2005 survey by the Drug Abuse Warning Network estimates that non-medical use of pharmaceuticals accounted for more than 500,000 emergency room visits in California, officials said.

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Painkiller abuse permeates Canada

According to this story in the Globe and Mail, Canadians use prescription pills at a rate of more than 466,000 doses a day – behind only the U.S. and Belgium. In Canada, spending on prescription opioids more than doubled from 1998 to 2007, and prescription opiate abuse grew an estimated 24.3 percent from 2002 to 2005, the article says. And an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the 1,000 to 2,000 overdose deaths in Canada each year may be related to prescription opioids, according to the article.

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Alcoholism antidote may help opioid addicts: pharma co.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Alkermes Inc. says its drug Vivitrol – which is used to help alcoholics quit drinking, may also help opioid addicts, the Boston Herald reports. The news comes in a state that is in the grip of an OxyContin and heroin epidemic worse than the swine flu. The company’s press release can be found here.

Read more about Massachusetts’ issues with OxyContin abuse here.

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Safe use of prescription drugs

U.S. News & World Report has an informative article addressing the question of how to use prescription drugs without becoming addicted. While the article downplays the seriousness of the national prescription drug abuse problem, it contains useful tips on the safe way to use such medications when prescribed. Which, after all, is their intended purpose.

On a side note, the article links to a previous story detailing six tips on opioid addiction from a mother whose 22-year-old son died of an OxyContin overdose in 2008.

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Teen prescription drug abuse in L.A. suburb underscores national trend

Like many other small and mid-sized towns across the nation, prescription drug abuse among youth in Glendora, a town of about 50,000 in Los Angeles County, Calif., has seen a recent and alarming uptick, according to this article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. At the town’s high school, 46 students were suspended for prescription drug-related violations in the 2006-07 school year, a number that spiked to 54 the next year and 55 the year after that, the article says. And just two months into this school year, there already have been 11 suspensions related to prescription drugs, according to the article. The severe nature of the problem came to light after a several recent deaths in the community, all due to prescription drug overdoses in young adults under the age of 18.

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San Diego County deaths linked to Oxy epidemic

The OxyContin abuse epidemic in San Diego County has already become apparent, but there has also been an increase in the number of fatalities due to the drug, 10News.com reports. Local officials told the site there have been 57 Oxy-related deaths in the past year within a 10-mile radius of Rancho Santa Fe, and more than 40 arrests of young people abusing OxyContin. A local addiction counselor added that 15 of the 24 beds at his rehab center are being used by OxyContin victims.

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Oxy is a poison that's taken like candy: Mass. lawmaker

In a follow-up to the Massachusetts OxyContin and Heroin Commission’s report finding that Massachusetts is in the grip of an OxyContin and heroin epidemic worse than the swine flu, local news station NECN interviews Steve Tolman, Democratic State Senator from Brighton, Mass., who was one of the people who pushed hardest for the review. Watch his discussion with anchor Jim Braude on Broadside to discuss the depth of the problem and what needs to be done to address it here.

To recap, one of the report’s most stunning findings was that between 2002 and 2007, 3,265 Massachusetts residents died of opiate-related overdoses. Looks like the local statistics are backing up what’s happening on a national scale, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finding in a report released last month that from 1999 through 2006, the number of fatal poisonings involving opioid analgesics more than tripled from 4,000 to 13,800 deaths.

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Pharmacist's wife decries Seattle pharmacy thefts

pharmacyIn this guest column for the Seattle Times a pharmacist’s wife recounts how she and her husband left New York City for a quieter life in Seattle, only to be plagued by that city’s pharmacy theft epidemic. She notes that a sobering reflection of how severe the problem has become is the fact that Walgreens recently installed time-delay safes in all of its stores in Washington state in an effort to limit instant access to OxyContin. She says she feels like a military wife, wondering when he works nights if he’ll become a casualty of the war for prescription drugs.

In the first seven months of this year, she says, Washington state logged 59 pharmacy robberies – nearly 90 percent of which were opiate-related.

No wonder she can’t sleep at night.

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Teen abuse of pills on the rise in Ohio

The Ohio-based Youngstown Vindicator takes note of the Oxy-to-heroin phenomenon by observing that while illegal drugs like heroin tend to make headlines, prescription medicines may pose a greater danger given the increasing numbers of children age 12 and 13 who are getting high for the first time by pilfering their parents’ medicine cabinets. A recent Partnership for a Drug-Free America study says one in five teenagers has taken a prescription painkiller to get high, the article says.

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