Oxy Watchdog’s Story
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Monthly Archives: September 2010
As the pharmaceutical companies Grunenthal and Johnson & Johnson release positive final-stage trial results for their new opioid painkiller tapentadol extended-release, market predictors estimate the new drug will rival or possibly even replace OxyContin as the top medication for chronic pain. According to this article in Trading Markets.com, Datamonitor forecasts sales to reach over $800 million by 2019. If approved for sale in the U.S., tapentadol will be the first new opioid to reach the marketplace in over 25 years. As an opioid-based, Schedule II drug like OxyContin, tapentadol may also become highly addictive and should be used under careful supervision, states Johnson & Johnson in this press release.
Though Saturday’s DEA-sponsored Prescription Drug Take-Back Day could potentially affect the dissemination of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, future success of the initiative hinges on local efforts and public awareness. A little funding would be nice too.
Chances are that most people with unused prescription drugs received conflicting information on the best way to dispose of them, reports Media Health Leaders.com. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Office of National Drug Control Policy recommend tossing the pills in the toilet or trash, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service state that the chemicals from flushed drugs are harmful to the environment and end up in our drinking water.
“I believe this event has done a lot to help people throughout the country understand the need to get rid of these medications,” says April Rovero, who founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse after her son, Joey, died in December 2009 from a lethal combination of alcohol and misused prescription medication.
The increased attention paid on prescription drug abuse combined with the possibility of doctors becoming more hesitant to prescribe certain pain medications may cause hoarding of unused pills rather than their return at events such as today’s national Prescritpion Drug Take-Back initiative, according to this blog posted by Time Magazine’s Healthland. Unlike the handgun buyback program, which offers money for returned firearms, the drug take-back offers little incentive for those who might be saving their painkillers such as OxyContin for an emergency or future use. What’s more, the blog cites two studies that show the majority of people who abuse painkillers did not become addicted during pain treatment and the majority of those admitted into rehab for prescription drug abuse had previously been treated for addiction.
To read more about today’s take-back program, go here.
Two large bottles of liquid oxycondone proved a powerful visual for the practice of over-prescribing pain medication that leads to or aids in prescription drug abuse at Wednesday’s panel presentation discussing the growing national trend, hosted by Chico State University in California.
The three-hour panel presentation was put together by Not in our Town Glenn County, managed by Jim Bettencourt and attend by 60 students, parents and community members. OxyWatchdog contributor Esmeralda F. Ramirez was there to hear what the panel had to say.
According to Bettencourt, the irresponsibility of doctors prescribing an excess of a drug is not uncommon and many physicians do not screen patients to see what is in their bodies. When a patient in pain is asking for a large amount of Vicodin, for example, the physician should ask for a simple urine test to check for existing medication in the patient’s system and prescribe the necessary amount of drugs, he said.
When patients want more than what they are prescribed, it’s a sign that they have become addicted, said Salvadore Biondolillo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which is sponsoring this Saturday’s Take-Back Day. A classic example, he said, is a patient that has been taking hydrocodone, then switches to oxycodone, then OxyContin, and finally to heroin because it is much cheaper than prescription drugs.
While the Drug Enforcement Administration may hold high hopes for its first-ever national Prescription Drug Take-Back initiative, many communities around the U.S. and the world have already experienced both successes and failures of existing programs.
In 2006, Northern California held its first and only large-scale take-back program in which more than 1,500 residents disposed of 3,634 pounds of pharmaceutical waste, according to the Report on the San Francisco Bay Area’s Safe Medicine Disposal Days, but due to expense and inconvenience it was abandoned. Meanwhile, last Saturday marked the small Massachusetts town of Abington’s second take-back event which more than tripled the efforts of the first “Clean Out the Cabinet!” campaign, reports this article at EnterpriseNews.com. The campaign was so successful, the town’s police department is planning a third event this winter.
According to this report by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, there is a great variety of ways in which cities, counties or states can participate including single-day collections, recurring annual events, or mail-back and drop-off options. Outside the U.S., Australia, Canada and eleven European nations all host similar events – with varying success – to combat the ever-increasing rate of prescription drug abuse.
Read more about the DEA’s take-back initiative in the U.S. here.
The effects of Saturday’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Day won’t just be felt by people – the environment may also reap the rewards. According to press releases from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the improper disposal of medications may have adverse effects on the ecosystem. While the Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing unused prescriptions down the toilet to prevent abuse, such practices cause contamination to the nation’s waterways.
According to this report from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, flushed drugs kill the bacteria that break down waste in sewage plants, damaging septic systems. In fact, a 2008 Associated Press investigation found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of at least 41 million Americans in 24 major metropolitan areas, the IISG reports. According to Ecolocalizer.com, some medicines have even been associated with altering the sex characteristics of fish.
During one of the national take-back events this Saturday, once the drugs are handed in to law enforcement personnel they will likely be incinerated at high temperatures.
Read more about the take-back initiative here.
Find a collection site near you here.
In response to the nation’s growing prescription drug abuse problem, the Drug Enforcement Administration is sponsoring the first-ever National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, Sept. 25. Government, community, public health and law enforcement partners will be collecting expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs for destruction at sites across the nation from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.
Find a collection site near you here.
A recent Canadian study on student drug use reveals that students use drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Tylenol 3 and Demerol as early as seventh grade, reports CBCNews.com. The self-administered, anonymous survey for Ontario students grades 7-12, conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, shows drug use doubled from eight to ninth grade – from 11 percent to 22 percent – in 2009. School officials blame the ease of access to prescription drugs for the increase in abuse.
Go here to read the complete study from CAMH.
To read about prescription drug overdose among U.S. teens, go here.
A trend among abusers of the painkiller OxyContin is to switch to heroin, which costs less and is often easier to obtain – a trend exemplified by Sean Roderick of Massachusetts. Roderick, 30, recently pleaded guilty to stealing baby formula from a supermarket with the intention to resell it in order to support his heroin addiction, reports this article on Seacoastonline.com. Though Roderick told the judge he is committed to beating an addiction stemming from the OxyContin he was prescribed for knee surgery, the judge holds little hope.
“From this court’s experience, we’re going to see Mr. Roderick back again,” said the judge, according to the article. “It happens in every heroin case.”
To read more about the Oxy-to-heroin trend, go here.
Florida’s new prescription drug monitoring program may be put on hold due to a bid dispute despite the increasing rate of drug abuse in the state, reports this article in the St. Petersburg Times. One of the companies that lost out on the bid to create the program is now claiming the state health department’s selection process was unfair. What’s more, the program has already faced criticism over loopholes that could allow for doctor shopping. Florida is one of about 12 states in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program, yet prescription drugs are now the number one cause of overdose in the state.
To read more about prescription drug monitoring programs in the U.S. from the Drug Enforcement Administration, go here.