Painkiller market to reach $8.4B by 2017: WSJ

pill money signPrescription painkiller sales are set to increase by 15% and hit $8.4 billion by 2017, due in part to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision to ban any generic versions of OxyContin based on the powerful painkiller’s original formulation, which does not include anti-abuse features designed to make the pill harder to abuse. Experts are predicting a race across the pharmaceutical industry to create a market where all opioids have abuse-deterrent properties, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the FDA, “because original OxyContin provides the same therapeutic benefits as reformulated OxyContin, but poses an increased potential for certain types of abuse, the FDA has determined that the benefits of original OxyContin no longer outweigh its risks and that original OxyContin was withdrawn from sale for reasons of safety or effectiveness.”

OxyContin’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, reformulated the drug in 2010 to make it more difficult to crush, break, or dissolve; the reformulated pill forms a viscous hydrogel and cannot be easily prepared for injection. The FDA noted Tuesday that abuse of OxyContin by these routes, as well as the oral route, is still possible.

The FDA’s decision came on the same day that Purdue’s patent on the original OxyContin expired, which normally opens the door for generic drug makers to launch their own cheaper versions of a product. Now, these generic companies will have to develop their own abuse-deterrent designs, preserving Purdue’s monopoly on the OxyContin market for the time being.

OxyContin, which first hit the market in 1995, raked in more than $2.8 billion in sales last year. The company pleaded guilty in 2007 to mismarketing the drug as less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medicines and paid $635 million in fines.

Critics have raised concerns that the FDA’s decision to bar generic OxyContin may push patients towards less effective drugs without eliminating the risk of addiction, or that generic companies may rush to create abuse-deterrent versions and falsely market to prescribers that these pills are less addictive.

In addition, about one-quarter of abusers say they’ve figured out how to defeat the anti-abuse mechanisms, according to a 2012 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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 Painkiller market to reach $8.4B by 2017: WSJ

  1. Eve Dallas says:

    Watching the interplay between the federal government (FDA in particular) and big pharma is like watching two mafia families play games with each other–highly dysfunctional “families” at that. It hasn’t been, what, 10 years since the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet, I believe?–which was then dutifully commented on by the press–wrote about the “epidemic” of untreated serious, chronic pain in the United States, the cost to worker productivity of unalleviated, inadequately treated pain. Now the pendulum swings back the other way–though millions of Americans STILL suffer with inadequately treated chronic, often disabling, pain. And since nothing seems more dysfunctional, irrational, than our own government, it isn’t surprising that the government’s answer is to use a bandaid rather than a tourniquet for a hemorrhage, and not bother first sewing up the deep cut underneath causing the bleeding in the first place.

    Then again, isn’t Big Pharma huge contributors to political campaigns?

    Nicotine cigarettes, filled with carcinogens and highly addictive agents, PROVEN to cause innumerable diseases and cancers, having NO healing properties, the government refuses to do ANYTHING about except halt sales to anyone younger than age 18. But narcotic painkillers, PROVEN to work on moderate to severe chronic, debilitating pain (and let us not forget pain is a purely subjective experience, no two people having identical pain tolerance levels), our government’s answer is to enforce Draconian measures on prescribing doctors, quotas on pharmaceutical companies (and THEIR answer is to make the drug prohibitively expensive so fewer patients can afford them), and pass legislation such that doctors, essentially, have to get the government’s permission to prescribe medication for their own patients! Never mind the 8-12 years doctors spend in medical school, internships, residencies, fellowships–no, some newly elected or careerist politician is telling a doctor how to practice. It is obscene.

    Just think about that for a minute. Patients (unless terminal) have to beg for pain relief, are often treated as “pill seekers,” are made to feel like criminals/drug addicts, all in hopes of getting relief from exhausting, even disabling, pain. But anyone over the age of 18 can buy a pack of cigarettes, which are more addictive than HEROIN and even harder to “kick the habit,” irrefutably cause emphysema, COPD, lung and other cancers and other diseases. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? And why are Americans, the medical community, not DOING anything about this?

    I understand conservatives, Republicans would probably rather cut off a finger than work with liberals, Democrats, but why are they so willing to be conned, let their prejudices overrule common sense? Why do they so easily buy into the GOP fabrication that Democrats just want to turn the country into a socialist nation when ALL the evidence shows SO clearly the tyrannical nature of the GOP? They have already helped turn us into an oligarchy. Is their end goal an American “home brew” form of fascism?

    Literally from the first day that Obama spoke of overhauling our health care/insurance system, the GOP has scared the public with their leitmotif of “liberals want to choose your doctor, your care for you.” Except, it has been the REPUBLICAN party doing the dictating.

    Americans need to wake up and realize there are far more of us (the citizenry) than them (politicians, corporate fat cats), that WE have the actual power to affect change. But it will take Americans putting aside their political differences to work on a common goal, and that is what is best for AMERICANS, not for corporations and politicians.

  2. jandriene says:

    So well-stated! Thank you, Eve. I do wish more people would realize these facts and trly work together…everybody is so divided on issues. It has become too extreme and now nothing can be acomplished that would actually bebefit all of us.

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