Monthly Archives: May 2011

Think the new OxyContin is tamper-proof? Think again

There has been much buzz recently about Purdue Pharma’s new version of OxyContin, known as OP, which the drug company claims is designed to help discourage misuse and abuse of the medication. But not surprisingly, people hooked on Oxy are already finding ways to get their fix from it, according to the Seattle Weekly. To recap: Purdue continues to reap billions of dollars from sales of the original OxyContin until its patent expires in April 2013, while also profiting from sales of the new OP. Generic competitors are jumping on the bandwagon by lining up their own versions of “tamper-proof” Oxy. And addicts are still addicted and able to feed their habits, all the while lining Big Pharma’s pockets.

Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

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Treatment options uncertain for opiate-addicted babies in Fla.

In Florida, where OxyContin addiction is widespread, more babies are being born addicted to opiates, according to this article on News-press.com. The article profiles a recovering Oxy and heroin addict whose doctors switched her from suboxone to methadone for the birth of her child. Treatment options for opiate-addicted women are currently extremely controversial, and long-term effects on babies’ health isn’t yet known.

Read more about how the opiate addiction crisis is affecting babies here and here.

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Pill abuse soars in N.Y.

New York is fast emerging as another problem area for abuse of prescription drugs like OxyContin, according to this article in the New York Daily News. Illegal pill sales now make up about 15 percent of narcotics prosecutors’ cases, as compared to just 3 percent five years ago, and are being sold by dealers alongside harder drugs like heroin and meth, the article says.

Read more about the prescription drug epidemic in New York here.

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Prescription drug abuse-addled states target pill mills

Last week, Ohio’s governor signed a bill to combat pill mills, which help supply the state with illegal prescription pain medications like OxyContin. Meanwhile, Florida drug enforcement agents closed another prescription drug outlet as part of “Operation Pill Nation,” a long-term investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement. According to this release from the DEA, the effort is part of a “concerted effort to keep South Florida from drowning in pill mills.” In Ohio, the bill comes just in time, as the number of prescriptions are steadily rising among the state’s residents, reports this article from the Columbus Dispatch.

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DEA’s second prescription Take-Back Day tops first attempt

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s second Prescription Drug Take-Back Event which took place April 30 collected 181 tons of unwanted medications, reports this release. The first national event held in September collected 121 tons and was herald as a success. According to the release, the large amount of drugs taken for proper disposal indicate the need and potential for pills like OxyContin to be disseminated illegally.

Read about last year’s Take-Back Day efforts here.

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Online pharmacies play significant role in painkiller abuse

Illegal online pharmacies contribute to the ever-growing prescription drug abuse problem in the U.S., reports this article from New York Daily News. A new study shows that states with the largest expansion of high-speed Internet access also had the greatest increase in admissions for treatment of prescription drug abuse. According to the article, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Southern California believe Internet expansion partially explains the boom in abuse of painkillers like OxyContin from 2000 to 2007, the study’s time frame.

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Watchdog Editorial: Government’s answer to pill abuse? Let Big Pharma handle it

Last week, President Barack Obama released a survey on prescription drug abuse that called for new measures in prevention, including enlisting pharmaceutical companies to train doctors on prescribing practices for narcotic drugs.

This call for action comes a couple of years too late – after all, the prescription drug abuse epidemic has been raging since the late 1990s. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see a real attempt by the White House to address the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.

First, the good news: the major goal of the plan is to cut the abuse rate by 15 percent by the year 2015 through doctor and patient education. The plan also proposes a strategy to increase state-run prescription drug monitoring programs, which are currently active in 35 states.

Prescription monitoring systems provide an online database for pharmacists and doctors to research patients’ past and current prescriptions – an effective tool to prevent doctor shopping. However, most databases are limited to information within a single state and are not mandatory for drug prescribers to check when writing or filling a prescription.

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Mass. legislature overturns Big Pharma, doctor bribery law

In Massachusetts, pharmaceutical companies can once again “wine and dine” physicians to influence their prescribing practices. According to this article from Policy and Medicine, a state law was overturned last week which required doctors to report any gifts over $50 from pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. The reasoning behind throwing out the law had to do with inhibited physician education provided by drug makers. Of course, it may also be tied to the White House’s new plan to further utilize Big Pharma in educating doctors. Conflict of interest, maybe?

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Ohio bill proposes program to limit Medicaid doctor shopping

A new Ohio bill proposes a “lock-in” program for prescription drugs that would require Medicaid recipients to see only one doctor or pharmacy to receive high-risk medications such as OxyContin. The Stop Trafficking of Pills Act is modeled after a similar North Carolina act which reduced the statewide use of prescription pain medication by 43 percent, according to this article from Lancaster Eagle Gazette. A step in the right direction for sure, but what if such limits were extended beyond Medicaid?

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Fla. drug abuse measures rests on legislative compromise

Long plagued by prescription drug abuse and an endless debate on how best to get a handle on the situation, Florida’s legislature is reviewing a bill today that would make strides toward curbing abuse. In addition to finally legitimizing the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, the bill would prohibit doctors and small pharmacies from distributing addictive pain medication like OxyContin. However, it would also lift a cap on the amount of medication a person could receive. According to this article from the Sun Sentinel, if the bill is not approved by both the House and Senate by the end of the day tomorrow, a drastically scaled-back version could take its place.

Meanwhile, this article from Local12 WKRC reports that a massive “pill pipeline” running from Florida to Ohio has been uncovered. If the bill passes tomorrow, it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

Read about Florida’s prescription drug abuse problem here.

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