Monthly Archives: June 2012

Purdue seeks to extend exclusivity on Oxy patent

The maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, is fighting in federal court to extend its exclusive rights to the painkiller, which are set to expire in April 2013. The Stamford, Conn.-based company claims generic drug makers shouldn’t be allowed to market their copycat versions of the old version of OxyContin, according to this article. Purdue’s new version of OxyContin, introduced in 2010, was designed to help discourage misuse and abuse of the medication, although addicts have found ways to get their fix from it.

Generic manufacturers facing patent infringement lawsuits by Purdue say they can make their own “tamper-proof” versions of the drug, and that Purdue is trying to protect its share of the OxyContin market, the article says. Sales of OxyContin exceeded $2.8 billion last year.

In 2007, Purdue and three of its top executives were found guilty of misrepresenting the addictive nature of OxyContin and fined $634.5 million. The company also agreed to a $20 million settlement of similar allegations with 27 state attorneys general.

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Manchin to Oxy Watchdog: “I will not give up this fight”

Earlier this week, pharmacy interest groups defeated an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act that aimed to change the classification of hydrocodone-containing pain relief products from Schedule III to Schedule II, putting hydrocodone painkillers into the same category as OxyContin and Percocet. Hydrocodone is the most-prescribed prescription drug in the U.S., with 131.2 million prescriptions written in 2010 alone. The provision had been accepted as an amendment to the U.S. Senate’s version of the bill, but it was cut from the final bill that reconciled the Senate and House provisions after the Generic Pharmaceutical Association objected to it, claiming it would restrict access and increase prices to the painkillers.

Today, Oxy Watchdog caught up with the amendment’s author, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who said the bipartisan measure was defeated due to the efforts of high-powered and well-funded lobbyists representing groups that have a huge financial stake in keeping these pills as accessible as possible. But he vowed to continue the fight against prescription drug abuse, and said he planned to re-introduce the amendment in the future.


Watchdog: Tell us more about the reasons you decided to introduce this measure. What’s the landscape like in West Virginia regarding prescription drug abuse?

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Report identifies 75% spike in painkiller abuse since 2002

Addiction to prescription painkillers increased by nearly 75 percent between 2002 and 2010, particularly among men ages 18 to 49, according to a new report.

The report found that annually, 4.6 million people take painkillers for more than 30 days and almost 1 million use the drugs for nonmedical reasons for more than 200 days.

The finding implies that each of the 257 million opioid prescriptions dispensed in the United States annually contributes on average to more than two days of nonmedical use, according to the report.

Prescription painkillers are responsible for around 15,000 deaths and 475,000 emergency room visits a year, killing more people than car accidents, according to a separate report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Pharma lobby defeats painkiller reclassification measure

Pharmacy interest groups have apparently defeated an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act that aims to change the classification of common, hydrocodone-containing pain relief products from Schedule III to the more-restrictive Schedule II. The U.S. Senate approved the new restrictions – which are part of a bill reauthorizing user fees for the FDA – last month, but the House version of the legislation doesn’t address the issue, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Read a final summary of the bill here.

Combination hydrocodone products such as Vicodin and Norco are currently classified as Schedule III drugs, meaning that prescriptions can be written with five refills and pharmacies are not required to lock them in a safe.

The amendment to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) re-authorization bill would re-schedule hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II, putting hydrocodone painkillers into the same category as OxyContin and Percocet. Hydrocodone is the most-prescribed prescription drug in the U.S., with 131.2 million prescriptions written in 2010 alone.

Pharmacy organizations have fought the amendment, saying it will keep such medications out of the hands of patients who need them and increase health care costs.

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In N.Y., pill addiction epidemic shows no signs of slowing

New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic, and experts say things have only gotten worse since last year’s quadruple homicide at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy. According to this article, there were 92 instances in Nassau in 2011 in which prescription opioids were linked to overdose deaths – a tally higher than either of the previous two years and more than triple the 2004 figure. Forty-five of those deaths happened after the Medford killings, the article says.

Meanwhile, Suffolk had 177 such cases in 2011, the most ever recorded by the county medical examiner’s office; 80 of those deaths occurred after the murders, the article says.

Prescriptions for oxycodone in New York rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a recent 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.

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N.H. becomes 49th state to monitor painkiller prescriptions

New Hampshire is now the 49th state to use a database to keep track of commonly abused drugs, with Gov. John Lynch signing a bill on Tuesday establishing a prescription drug monitoring system.

In 2007-2008, New Hampshire was one of the top ten states for rates of drug use in several categories, including past-year non-medical use of pain relievers among young adults age 18-25, and opiates are the most commonly cited drugs among primary drug treatment admissions in the state.

All other states except Missouri have such databases or have authorized them, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. But many clinicians are unaware of these programs, and their use varies among states and specialties, notes a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Workplace insurers burdened by pain pill costs

The nation’s obsession with prescription painkillers is causing headaches for workplace insurers, which are increasingly having to fork over money to employees with routine injuries who have been treated with medications like OxyContin, according to this article. Workers who received high doses of painkillers to treat common injuries stayed out of work three times longer than those who took lower doses, and when medical care and disability payments are combined, the cost of a workplace injury is nine times higher when a strong narcotic is used than when a narcotic is not used, the article says.

Prescription opioids cost workplace insurers an estimated $1.4 billion every year.

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Prescription drug bust in N.Y. nets 100 arrests

Nearly 100 individuals have been arrested in a law enforcement sweep targeting traffickers and health care practitioners accused of illegal prescription drug use in all five of New York’s counties. Prosecutors filed drug trafficking and other federal and state criminal charges against 98 defendants, including two doctors and a nurse practitioner, and have barred a Brooklyn pharmacist from dispensing prescription drugs.

New York has been cracking down on painkiller abuse. In May, the state passed a “Good Samaritan” law aimed at reducing overdose deaths by protecting people who call for medical help for overdose victims from being prosecuted for personal possession of drugs, paraphernalia or underage drinking. The state is now the largest in the nation to adopt such a measure. Washington state, Connecticut and New Mexico have all passed similar laws, and California, Illinois and Nebraska are currently considering them.

Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in New York, where almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in in 2010, according to a recent report issued by the state’s attorney general.

Even though opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people don’t call 911 out of fear of arrest and prosecution, and instead rely on ineffective methods of reviving victims.

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Lawyer David Michael Cantor on prescription drug addiction

In this guest post, Arizona lawyer David Michael Cantor weighs in on prescription drug addiction in his state and throughout the nation.


All over the country, prescription drug abuse is running rampant. Whether the drug of choice is OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, or any other painkiller or prescription medication, the fact is that people are abusing these drugs at an alarming rate. In a recent survey, over 7 million Americans reported using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 30 days. In 2006 and 2007, the Department of Health in Arizona reported a 41% increase in drug-related deaths among children and teenagers. The problem is becoming an epidemic and with more and more baby boomers getting older and having health issues, there are more pills available.

Prescription pain medication is one of the most widely abused drugs throughout the nation and in Arizona. In 2008, 10.5% of high school seniors in Arizona admitted to using a prescription pain reliever in the last 30 days. According to the DEA, 56% of teens believe prescription drugs are easier to get than illicit drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most commonly abused prescription drugs are OxyContin, Codeine, Percodan, Percocet, and Vicodin.

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Battle brews over hydrocodone rescheduling amendment

A controversial amendment to the Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act that would change the classification of common, hydrocodone-containing pain relief products from Schedule III to the more-restrictive Schedule II has pharmacy interest groups up in arms, but proponents say it would help address the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

Combination hydrocodone products such as Vicodin and Norco are currently classified as Schedule III drugs, meaning that prescriptions can be written with five refills and pharmacies are not required to lock them in a safe.

The amendment to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) re-authorization bill would re-schedule hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II, putting hydrocodone painkillers into the same category as OxyContin and Percocet. Hydrocodone is the most-prescribed prescription drug in the U.S., with 131.2 million prescriptions written in 2010 alone.

Pharmacy organizations are fighting the amendment, saying it will keep such medications out of the hands of patients who need them and increase health care costs.

The amendment’s author, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), says the bipartisan measure would make it far more difficult to abuse addictive pain medicine.

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