Monthly Archives: August 2010

Calif. doctor linked to six-plus deaths involving OxyContin

State officials in California are pressing to revoke the license of a doctor linked to several fatalities due to overdoses of prescription narcotics including OxyContin, hydrocodone and Xanax. An article in The Los Angeles Times reports that at least six men have died of overdoses after visiting general practitioner Lisa Tseng, some of whom were known addicts. According to the Associated Press, in addition to misconduct charges from the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, Tseng faces an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration into her prescribing practices.

Read the DEA’s press release on the issue here.

*Update: Tseng is now claiming that the responsibility for any misuse of the drugs belongs to the users, despite allegations by DEA officials that she routinely prescribed Oxy and other powerful painkillers without properly assessing patients’ medical needs – or their apparent addictions, the LA Times reports.

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Ind. opiate abuse increasing faster than national average

According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal overdoses of opiates – including OxyContin – outnumber those caused by other drugs. In Indiana, the Journal Gazette reports that compared to the national average, the abuse of prescription drugs is climbing higher faster than that of illegal drugs. In 2008, the use of OxyContin alone had increased by a whopping 712 percent in the state. One major cause for the change, according to the paper: unlike “street drugs” such as cocaine and marijuana which are smuggled in from other countries, prescription narcotics are readily available at local pharmacies. The abuse is also being fueled by the perception that because drugs like Oxy are prescription medicines and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they are safer than illegal drugs, the paper says.

To read about the national trend of increased prescription drug abuse, go here.

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Canada cracks down on highest narcotic usage in the world

Facing the highest per capita usage of narcotics in the world, and double the rate of abuse than the rest of the country, the province of Ontario, Canada is implementing a prescription drug monitoring program similar to those already in place in the U.S. Ontario has seen the use of prescription oxycodone increase 900 percent since 1991, claiming more deaths than HIV each year, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal late last year, the death toll has increased dramatically since the new slow-release version of OxyContin hit the market—supposedly a version less prone to abuse.

To read more about the new version of slow-release OxyContin, go here.

Find out more about prescription drug monitoring programs in the U.S. here.

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Oxy-to-heroin abuse more prevalent small towns

An upswing in the use of heroin in small towns can be linked to the growing abuse of prescription drugs such as OxyContin, and the high price associated with them, reports HeraldNet. Also an opiate, heroin is often used as a substitute drug for Oxy abusers, as it costs significantly less and can be easier to obtain. As an example, NWCN News reported drastic growth in drug-related crimes in the small town of Snomish, Wash., including a pharmacy being robbed of $50,000 worth of OxyContin.

Read about the 400% nationwide increase in prescription pill abuse here.

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Strengthened Mass. law targets Oxy abuse

Through an updated electronic monitoring system, Mass. doctors will keep closer tabs on potential prescription drug abuse, including OxyContin–the abuse of which is a particular problem in the state. According to DOTmed News, the law will limit doctors prescribing unnecessary drugs, increases the number of drugs that are monitored, and report when patients are receiving the same prescription from multiple sources, among other changes. At least 9,000 Mass. residents are suspected of engaging in “doctor shopping” annually, reports the GovMonitor. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the state joins 34 others in the U.S. with existing prescription monitoring programs.

Decisions leading up to Mass. prescription monitoring program can be found here.

Reports on opiate abuse in Mass can be read here.

Read about Oregon’s implementation of the program here.

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Makers of OxyContin suppress generic brands

Australian company Mundipharma is fighting patents on generic forms of oxycodone, which if brought to market would drastically cut the pharmaceutical company’s profits of OxyContin, reports the American Chronicle. Oxycodone is the highest selling opiate in Australia, with reported sales of $42 million in 2009.  A similar situation is echoed with the U.S. manufacturer of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma LP, which recently submitted a new patent for the reformulated version of the painkiller. The new patent ensures other companies will not be able to create generic forms of oxycodone, reports ABC News.

Information on Purdue Pharma’s reformulated version of OxyContin can be found here.

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Staten Island issues most Oxy prescriptions in NYC

Amidst a trend of Oxy- and painkiller-related crimes, Staten Island doctors write the most prescriptions for oxycodone in the city of New York and the second most in the entire state. According to this article in the Staten Island Real-Time News, that’s one prescription for every four to five people living in the city, nearly 2,200 filled per week.

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Prescription drug overdose main killer of teens

Once the number one killer of people under the age of 34, car crashes have been replaced by prescription drug abuse as the top cause of death among teens. As reported by the The News-Times, a recent study found the abuse of accessible opiates such as the painkiller oxycodone are luring young people in record numbers. Furthermore, addiction to the pricey narcotic drug leads them to seek out less expensive options such as heroin, with one addiction specialist telling the paper she has sent 30 of her patients under age 22 to in-patient treatment for opiate abuse. All of them, she said, started off using painkillers like Oxy but soon couldn’t afford the $80 per pill and switched to heroin, which costs about $10 a bag.

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Ore. ranks number seven in painkiller, Oxy abuse

Oregon has the seventh highest rate of painkiller abuse in the U.S., according to this article in The Oregonian. Teens in the state rank number four in prescription drug abuse, such as OxyContin. However, the state is following the example of 38 other states in implementing a prescription drug monitoring program for doctors to track use of certain drugs.

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Oxy thief ends own life

OxyWatchdog usually posts crime-related stories under Oxy Crime Watch, but this story of a man who stole OxyContin from a Rite Aid pharmacy in Spokane, Wash. and then shot himself as he was being pursued by police highlights the desperation the painkiller creates in addicts.

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