Monthly Archives: November 2011

Watch it: ‘Overtaken’ documentary

Jodi Barber and Christine Brant of Laguna Niguel, Calif. – who were recently profiled in our Oxy Activists section – produced “Overtaken,” a short documentary educating young adults on the truth about prescription drug addiction and the often deadly consequences pills have. The film is now available to watch online here. Check it out!

Read more about Jodi and Christine here.

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OxyContin Activists: Mason and Michaela

Like many young adults, Mason and Michaela of Marin County, Calif. saw their lives spin out of control after getting hooked on OxyContin in their teens. Today, Mason (now 24) and Michaela (now 23) are finally free from Oxy’s grip and are speaking out about the devastating effects of the prescription painkiller at high schools and youth leadership camps. Oxy Watchdog asked the pair – who met in recovery and have been dating since Aug. 2010 – to share more about how they got to where they are today, and their efforts to help prevent others from going down a similar path.

Watchdog: Tell us about how you grew up, and how your addiction progressed.

Mason: I played sports growing up, and I aspired to be a professional baseball player. I was picked to play on the varsity team as a freshman in high school, but after two games I got caught smoking weed and was kicked off the team. After that I began failing out of my classes and became lost. Eventually I was sent to a continuation high school, which was like a training ground for drug addicts. I met a girl who had a prescription for Darvocet and Percocet to treat her rheumatoid arthritis, and she was always taking these pills, so I started taking them too. After a few weeks I tried OxyContin, and after a month I couldn’t afford the Oxys anymore, so I started doing heroin. Soon I was shooting up to 4 or 5 grams of heroin a day and also doing cocaine and pills, as well as methadone.

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Former Purdue execs fight court-ordered ban

Three former executives of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma are trying to convince a federal appeals court to throw out a ruling debarring them from working with any government-financed health programs. Former general counsel Howard Udell, former CEO Michael Friedman, and former chief medical officer Paul Goldenheim were tried under a statute that holds corporate officers liable for the misconduct of their company, even if there was no proof of misconduct on their part for failing to prevent, detect or correct federal drug violations. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 6 in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, according to this article.

The criminal misdemeanor charges stem from a 2007 case in which Purdue was found to misrepresent the addictive nature of OxyContin and was fined $634.5 million. The executives pled guilty, and though they didn’t face any jail time, they were excluded from working at corporations with government contracts, such as Medicare, for 12 years. The trio was held strictly liable as “responsible corporate officers” for the improper promotion of OxyContin because they had responsibility and authority to prevent the violation, but failed to do so. Now, they want the appeals court to either strike down or reduce the exclusion, arguing that they were guilty of “omissions, not acts” – in essence, they were found to be at fault due to their status, not their conduct, the article says. The government, on the other hand, claims Purdue caused huge financial losses to Medicaid programs that bought OxyContin based on the company’s false claims.

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Oxy robberies turning Del. pharmacies into ‘war zones’

There have been 99 robberies or attempted robberies of drugstores or their customers in Delaware since January 2009 by painkiller addicts, causing pharmacists in the state to question the safety of their profession, according to this article. The 23-year-old addict profiled in the story, Phil Maconi, is now serving a four-year sentence after pleading guilty to two such robberies, which he says he committed in a desperate attempt to ward off withdrawal symptoms. And the pharmacists involved in the heists say they now fear for their safety, the article says.

In a separate article, Maconi says many of the state’s pain management doctors are willing to prescribe vast amounts of powerful narcotics to anyone who walks in their door, with devastating consequences: prescription drug abuse in Delaware has killed someone, on average, every other day over the last two years, that article says. (For the perspective of physicians who specialize in treating chronic pain and have to decide whether their patients have a medical need for the drugs, go here.)

Read more about pharmacy robberies here.

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DEA upped Oxy supply amid addiction epidemic

The Drug Enforcement Administration has the power to decide how much of a particular drug can be legally manufactured and sent to market each year. But even as the prescription painkiller addiction epidemic skyrocketed, the agency officially sanctioned a 1,200% increase in oxycodone production, according to a former DEA agent quoted in this article. In 1997, one year after OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma brought the drug to market, the total oxycodone production quota approved by the DEA was 8.3 tons, but by 2011, it had risen to 105 tons, the article says. And while the DEA claims that limiting the supply of the prescription painkillers will not reduce abuse, the agency is being heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, which employs more lobbyists in Washington than there are members of Congress and has spent more than $20 million annually on lobbying since 2007, the article notes.

Pretty sickening.

Read more about the pharmaceutical industry’s rising production quotas here.

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Painkiller overdose deaths reach 15,000 a year in U.S.

Nearly 40 Americans die per day from overdoses of prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of deaths represents a three-fold increase over the past decade, and opioid pain relievers now account for more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, the report found. In addition, in 2010 alone, there were enough painkillers prescribed to supply every American with a one-month supply, the agency says.

Click here for a CDC podcast on prescription painkiller overdoses in the U.S., here for a CDC fact sheet on prescription drug abuse, or here for a CDC policy brief on the issue.

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What’s behind the prescription drug shortage?

President Obama has signed an executive order instructing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to address a growing shortage of prescription drugs that are used to treat cancer patients, heart attack victims, and other ill people. The shortages have reached record levels and include some of the most commonly used drugs used in hospitals, according to this article. The move raises the question of why there never seem to be any shortages of highly addictive, powerful narcotics with a high potential for abuse. Cancer patients are being shorted on life-saving treatments while commonly diverted drugs like OxyContin are a dime-a-dozen on the streets? Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

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