Monthly Archives: October 2010

Fla. police, pharmacists align to curb drug abuse in state

In an effort to decrease the growing prescription drug abuse problem in Florida, county sheriff departments have reached out to pharmacists with positive results, reports this article in the Chipley Paper. After one sheriff wrote a letter last year, other departments have used it as a template requesting pharmacists to use extra precaution when filling prescriptions for highly abused painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and other narcotics. In response, some pharmacies have adopted a blanket policy in which they will not fill a prescription from out of town, while others will call the physician to verify the legitimacy of the prescription. According to the article, oxycodone was responsible for 1,948 Florida deaths in 2009 and the state has faced a number of issues with its prescription monitoring program and with doctors’ fraudulent prescribing practices.

To read about prescription drug abuse in Florida, go here.

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New brand of prescription painkiller oxycodone approved

A new form of oxycodone hydrochloride, a synthetic opiate like the brand name drug OxyContin, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week, reports this release from the FDA. Lehigh Valley Technologies formulated the brand-name Oxycodone HCI as a morphine-derived painkiller to rival Purdue Pharma’s best-selling brand OxyContin. Purdue has tried to limit production of time-release and generic brands of oxycodone and has been embroiled in several lawsuits to maintain control of its $3 billion-per-year drug. According to its website, Lehigh Valley has developed its own version of abuse-deterrent drugs. In 2009, Lehigh Valley received a warning from the FDA for marketing an unapproved version of morphine, as detailed in this letter from the FDA. Like the brand-name OxyContin, Oxycodone HCI is a Schedule II narcotic and highly prone to addiction.

Read more about Purdue’s suppression of generic forms of oxycodone here.

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Makers of Oxy contribute to prescription monitoring programs

Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, contributed $200,000 towards the support and implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs earlier this week, according to this article from News-Medical.net. The monies were contributed to the non-profit National Association of State Controlled Substances Authorities and will go toward grants which assist states to maintain prescription monitoring programs, the Association’s main focus. In the article, a Purdue representative states that the pharmaceutical company has been supporting appropriately-designed monitoring programs to help reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. According to the article, the Association will manage the funding of grants and Purdue will have no input in the final selection process. Though OxyContin abuse has skyrocketed in the U.S. and abroad, Purdue Pharma makes a reported $3 billion per year on the opiate painkiller.

Read more about prescription monitoring programs here.

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Heroin use increases in Utah, abusers younger than ever

As abuse of heroin in Utah climbs upward, authorities are finding the age of users is going down, sometimes as young as 13 or 14 years old, reports this article on ksl.com. Though OxyContin and marijuana tend to be more popular among youths, the costly price drives them to a less expensive alternative. The fact that the dealers have become extremely sophisticated – often making heroin easier to obtain than cigarettes or alcohol for teens – makes the problem more prevalent. Though the cost of heroin is cheaper for users in the Salt Lake City area, the average age of whom is 16 to 23, the cost can be far more deadly since the drug is now 60 percent pure, whereas in the 1970s it was only three percent pure.

Read about the Oxy-to-heroin trend among teens here.

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States move closer to sharing prescription databases, curbing doctor shopping

Beginning next year, states in the U.S. will edge closer to unifying their prescription drug monitoring programs to share information and potentially cut down on doctor shopping, reports this article from CBS Business News. Though interstate prescription database sharing has been discussed for some years, the inconsistencies among each state’s program make unifying the system challenging, according to this report from the Council of State Governments. Because prescriptions drugs are the second-most abused drugs in the nation behind marijuana, nearly every state now has an existing or pending monitoring program aimed at curbing the epidemic.

Read about the Congressional caucus that examined interstate drug abuse here.

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New drug for Oxy, heroin addiction approved by FDA

A new treatment for opioid addiction – which includes heroin and painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin – was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this week, according to this article in USA Today. Unlike existing treatments which are essentially low-dose versions of the drug, Vivitrol is a once-monthly injection that blocks the effects of opiate drugs and is non-addictive. Though Vivitrol will sell for about $1,100 per injection, the creators are developing an implant that will last for six months, reports this article in the Washington Post. The article also cites a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse which found that about 810,000 Americans are addicted to heroin and another 1.85 million to opioid painkillers such as OxyContin.

Read about the drug buprenorphine used in opioid addiction treatment here.

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Prescription Take-Back Day yields 121 tons of drugs

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency pronounced Prescription Drug Take-Back Day a success after results of the first-ever national initiative were tallied earlier this month. According to this press release from the DEA, more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs were collected at over 4,000 take-back sites across the country. Though the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act signed into law earlier this week makes returning unused prescription drugs more feasible, the DEA plans to keep Sept. 25 designated as Prescription Drug Take-Back Day until more permanent measures are in place.

Read more on the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act here.

Find more information on the DEA’s National Take-Back Day here.

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Prescription drug disposal bill signed into law

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that amends the Controlled Substances Act, reports the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America here. The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act is intended to correct a provision in the original statute that requires drugs to be registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency before they will be accepted for proper disposal. It also increases sentencing guidelines for entities that instead of properly disposing drugs returned to them, use them in illegal activities. Though the bill as approved by the U.S. House of Representatives included a provision for a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the effects of the drugs on waterways, the final version nixed that portion, reports the Association of California Waterways in this release. The bill was originally passed by the House and Senate in early August and late September respectively, on the heels of the creation of the first ever National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Sept. 25th by the DEA.

Read more about the Act, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and the effects of drugs on waterways and the Controlled Substance here.

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Pfizer snaps up maker of less-abusable OxyContin

King Pharmaceuticals, the maker of oxycodone-containing painkillers Remoxy and Acurox, has been bought by Pfizer for $3.6 billion, according to this article in the Washington Post. Remoxy was designed to be an abuse-resistant, control-released form of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, but was rejected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008, reports this article from The Street. King also developed Acurox, another abuse-resistant opioid painkiller set to be submitted to the FDA in 2011. According to the Washington Post, with Pfizer at the helm, sales of the drugs could reach $500 million per year. Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, are also developing a less-abusable version of their $3 billion per-year painkiller.

Read about Purdue’s less-abusable version of OxyContin here.

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Opiate addiction treatment faces mixed reviews in U.S.

Though buprenorphine, a drug used to fight addiction to opiate painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet, was approved for use in the U.S. in 2002, it hasn’t met with the anticipated amount of success, reports this article from Medpage Today. Unlike methadone, the current opiate treatment drug of choice, buprenorphine partially inhibits the brain from receiving the feeling of euphoria associated with opiate use. What’s novel about the drug is that primary care doctors can prescribe it and patients can then treat themselves from home, rather than checking into a clinic. However, many physicians are hesitant to not only treat addicts, but to take on the added responsibility of prescribing the drug.

A large problem with the treatment of opiate abuse is that the addict can often become addicted to the treatment drug. Though it is virtually impossible to overdose on buprenorphine, it’s not exempt from abuse. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports that buprenorphine ranks among the top 25 most frequently identified substances analyzed in laboratories and in 2006, an estimated 4,440 emergency room visits were associated with buprenorphine misuse.

Despite its abuse in the U.S., buprenorphine has found some success in France, where it’s credited for a decrease in overdose deaths and a six-fold drop in injection drug users.

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