‘Tamper-proof’ Oxy driving painkiller addicts to heroin: researchers

Finally, some official recognition of what treatment providers and addiction experts have been saying all along: the reformulation of OxyContin is prompting painkiller addicts in rural and suburban communities across the country to switch to heroin, according to a letter published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Purdue Pharma’s new version of OxyContin, introduced in 2010, was designed to help discourage misuse and abuse of the medication. Three researchers examined the effect of the abuse-deterrent formulation on the abuse of OxyContin and other opioids, surveying 2,566 people seeking treatment for abuse of or dependence on opioid drugs. Although 24 percent found a way to defeat the tamper-resistant properties of the abuse-deterrent formulation, 66 percent indicated a switch to another opioid, with heroin the most common response.

According to the researchers:

“Our data show that an abuse-deterrent formulation successfully reduced abuse of a specific drug but also generated an unanticipated outcome: replacement of the abuse-deterrent formulation with alternative opioid medications and heroin, a drug that may pose a much greater overall risk to public health than OxyContin. Thus, abuse-deterrent formulations may not be the ‘magic bullets’ that many hoped they would be in solving the growing problem of opioid abuse.”

Purdue is currently fighting in federal court to extend its exclusive rights to OxyContin, 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 the painkiller.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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2 Responses to ‘Tamper-proof’ Oxy driving painkiller addicts to heroin: researchers

  1. Z.L.M says:

    My brother made the switch to heroin after Purdue switched formulas. He went from being a sporadic user with a job and life, to a full on needle using junky living in a perpetual state of inconsequence. His is a story I’ve sadly heard all to often lately, the people responsible for the formula change had to know what the consequences would be, but they didn’t care, so long as they can’t be held directly responsible for addicts they’re content. Thank you for writing these articles, I’m surprised and happy that there are other people out there who see the problem.

  2. Pain patient advocate says:

    Generics are made for a reason. Uninsured legitimate pain patients can’t afford these expensive name brand medications. I know that many patients that have legit pain that can testify that the reformulated medicines are not nearly as effective on pain. They need to be prescribed more often as in more doses a day to get any relief, then the orginal formula. I don’t understand why, but these reformulated brands are NOT releasing the medication as they should be. You are lucky if they even start working in a couple hours much less releasing a very small amount the med. In fact, I don’t believe that all of the med gets absorbed into the body before it’s expelled in the stool. So if these reformualted meds companies want to remain with patients using them? They need to find a way for them to release the med. Even durgesic doesn’t last for anymore than a day and half. Oxycontin is really bad too. The worst is the new Opana. That does nothing for pain in a patient that is used to the original formula. Withdraws have been felt going from the original to the new formula.

    These new meds have a ways to go before the legitimate pain patient gets relief from them. They cause stomach and digestive problems and the sales has got be declining unless they are being prescribed for more doses a day.. or a higher dose.
    Ask any patient that has had chronic intractable pain for at least a decade. They will say the same thing..

    Besides all that? Rescue medicines have got be available immediately to help these people, when the new ones fail to work.
    Too much tylenol will kill you faster than anything. NAIDS’s are very bad for the stomach also in the chronic pain patient that takes as they are supposed to.

    I say.. stop catering to the addicts and start carrying about the real patients.
    Addicts have been around forever. Those that have overdosed, most had combined multiple chemicals to cause the death.
    How about the alcohol caused the deaths?? Alcohol is the gateway drug anyway and that’s legal?!. Lock up your controlled substance medicines. That’s all that can done. People die because they kill themselves.. They know the risks.. People kill themselves, not the medications. Don’t take them if their not prescribed to you and always take as prescribed.. Use common sense but I have to say.. Americans all have RIGHT to have their pain relieved. They have a right to a choice in treatment. Injections and surgery is not a cure for everyone.. I say stop the war on DRUGS.. Adults know the risks.. Teach your kids.. to say NO to DRUGS! That worked in the 1980’s.. Unfortunately, we all are not going to live forever.. The young p[eople should taught by their parents.. Perhaps? Their parents aren’t giving enough attention to them and that is why they are turning to drugs and the bad people for friends..

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