Monthly Archives: January 2012

New Vicodin draws activist fire amid opioid abuse epidemic

San Diego-based Zogenix Inc.’s bid for FDA approval to begin marketing Zohydro – a new version of pure, extended-release hydrocodone that is said to be 10 times more powerful than Vicodin – has prompted some activists to appeal to the agency not to rubber-stamp more opioid drugs in the midst of an out-of-control epidemic. Proponents of extended-release versions of opioids – such as Purdue Pharma’s recently reformulated OxyContin, OP – claim the drugs are safer because they are “abuse-resistant,” but others point out that many opioid-addicted people simply swallow the pills whole. (Addicts are also already finding their way around allegedly tamper-proof versions.)

One group, Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids, has launched a letter-writing campaign urging the FDA not to sign off on more opioids. According to ARPO president Pete Jackson, the approval of extended-release hydrocodone will only exacerbate the opioid addiction epidemic, which killed nearly 15,000 Americans in 2008, surpassing the number of deaths due to car accidents. “It boggles the mind that, with the steadily rising toll of death and addiction from prescription opioids that has gone on unabated for more than ten years, we could be facing the approval of still more potent narcotic pain relievers in the form of pure, extended-release hydrocodone,” Jackson says. “It makes NO sense for the FDA to approve more deadly opioids at a time when they have not figured out how to stop the carnage from the opioids already on the market. This will add thousands to the annual death toll.”

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The Oxy King of Marin County: Profile of a Prolific Dealer

In California, prescription drug addiction is especially rampant among teens and young adults in middle- and upper-class areas like Marin County. In the latest issue of SF Weekly, Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly profiles one major OxyContin dealer who is now behind bars but claims he did nothing wrong.

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Teen pill abuse spurs schools’ use of drug-sniffing dogs

Parental concerns over teens’ abuse of prescription drugs has prompted several California school districts to rely on drug-sniffing canines to detect the presence of pills. The police chief in one district that is considering using the dogs said OxyContin use has increased, leading more teens to turn to heroin as a cheaper replacement high.

In 2009, 7 million Americans aged 12 years and older abused prescription drugs for non-medical purposes within the past month, and every day, on average, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Read more about prescription drug addiction in teens here and here.

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In N.Y., Oxy prescriptions skyrocket: report

Prescriptions for oxycodone in New York rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a new report issued by the state’s attorney general. Almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in the state in 2010, with an especially high quantity of prescriptions being written on Staten Island and in large areas of Suffolk County, the report says.

New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic. Earlier in January, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the DEA to share data collected on pharmaceutical and prescription drug theft with local law enforcement. That move came in the wake of the latest deadly pharmacy robbery on New Year’s Eve in Seaford, N.Y. and in the face of the quadruple homicide that occurred at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy last year.

Read more about New York’s painkiller addiction troubles here and here.

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Lawmaker appeals to DEA in wake of pharmacy robberies

Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling for beefed up security measures in order to curb the growing number of pharmacy thefts by people desperate to get their hands on prescription painkillers like Oxycontin. The lawmaker wants the DEA to share data collected on pharmaceutical and prescription drug theft with local law enforcement, and has put forth a bill that would increase maximum sentences for pharmacy-related crimes to 20 years per offense. The move comes in the wake of the latest deadly pharmacy robbery on New Year’s Eve in Seaford, N.Y. and in the face of the quadruple homicide that occurred at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy last year.

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New painkiller may take Oxy’s place

As you probably know, Purdue Pharma has reformulated OxyContin to curb abuse of the product, although it’s questionable how successful that attempt has been. (While some have already found ways to abuse the new version, known as OP, other ramifications include more people turning to painkillers like Opana and an increase in heroin addiction.) Now, another potent painkiller is looming on the horizon: Zohydro, a new version of hydrocodone that is said to be 10 times more powerful than Vicodin. San Diego-based Zogenix Inc. is seeking FDA approval to begin marketing the drug, but other pharmaceutical companies – including Purdue – are already working on their own versions. Hydrocodone is currently the second most-abused medicine in the U.S. behind oxycodone, and prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 Americans in 2008, surpassing the number of deaths due to car accidents.

It seems pretty convenient that just as Oxy is becoming potentially less lucrative, Big Pharma is moving on to greener pastures. Then again, are we really surprised?

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