Tag Archives: Purdue Pharma

Fentanyl, hydromorphone replacing Oxy in Canada

PillsTighter controls on the popularly abused painkiller OxyContin in Canada have had positive results, but experts say the country’s massive pill addiction problem is still spiraling out of control: in 2010, for the first time, Canada surpassed the United States to become the highest opioid-consuming country, per capita, in the world, according to this article.

Moreover, in 2011, twice as many Ontarians were killed by opioid overdoses as drivers killed in car accidents, and addiction treatment programs are overflowing with people addicted to publicly funded drugs, the article adds.

As you may remember, OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma replaced the painkiller last March in Canada with OxyNEO, an alternative billed as “tamper-resistant” because it is harder to crush. Today, Ontario’s OxyNEO prescriptions are about 60% what OxyContin prescriptions were a year ago; in Newfoundland, they’re 22%; in B.C., 67%, according to the article.

But other long-acting opioids such as fentanyl and hydromorphone — including Hydromorph Contin, also made by Purdue — are now among the fastest-growing causes of Ontario’s opioid overdose deaths, the article says.

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How did we get here?

pillflagThe numbers are staggering: in the United States, the number of overdose deaths from prescription opioids has more than tripled in the past decade, resulting in nearly 15,000 fatalities in 2008 alone and now accounting for more than 40 deaths every single day – not to mention the fact that estimated annual health care costs from this epidemic are as high as $72.5 billion.

How did we get here?

In the latest issue of Emergency Medicine News, Dr. Leon Gussow, a physician and editor of The Poison Review blog, examines how opioid analgesics – once feared as dangerous medications with high risk for addiction and overdose – became the drug class most frequently prescribed in the U.S., with four million patients a year receiving scripts for these powerful medications.

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FDA mulls hydrocodone reclassification

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to conduct a two-day hearing on whether hydrocodone products such as Vicodin should be more highly regulated like other narcotics like OxyContin and morphine, this article reports. FDA researchers said in recent briefing documents that while chronic pain patients taking hydrocodone products might develop moderate or low physical dependence, they would not be expected to develop addiction, the article says. But critics say hydrocodone is potent and highly addictive, and that updating the drug’s classification could help bring the prescription drug addiction epidemic under control, according to the article.

Last year, pharmacy interest groups defeated an amendment to the FDA Safety Innovation Act that aimed to change the classification of hydrocodone-containing pain relief products from Schedule III to the more-restrictive Schedule II.

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 have rescheduled 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.

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NYPD to use GPS ‘bait bottles’ to track illegal pill sales

The New York Police Department says it plans to use an innovative approach to combat the theft of painkillers by asking pharmacies to hide fake pill bottles fitted with GPS devices amid the legitimate supplies on their shelves, this article reports. The NYPD says the initiative was prompted by a rash of high-profile crimes associated with the thriving black market for oxycodone and other prescription drugs in recent years, including the slaying of four people on Long Island during a pharmacy holdup in 2011, the article says. Officers will ask roughly 6,000 pharmacists and 1,800 pharmacies in the New York City area to adopt use of the bottles, which can be tracked in the event of a robbery or theft.

The GPS devices will be provided by Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin – the most-abused medicine in the United States.

New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic, and experts say things have only gotten worse since the quadruple homicide at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy in 2011. 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.

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U.S. drug officials fear flood of generic Oxy

U.S. drug officials are warning police and border guards to be on the lookout for Canadian generic versions of the widely abused painkiller OxyContin after the Canadian government gave the stamp of approval to six generic versions of the drug. According to this article, the warnings have come from U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske and Montana’s attorney general Steve Bullock, and the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy has issued a notice stating that “the potential exists for diversion into the United States because the old formulations, which are easier to abuse, are unavailable in the United States.”

Health Canada opened the door for generic versions of OxyContin in November following the expiration of the patent held by Purdue Pharma for its long-acting formulation of oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin. The move came despite urgings from some of the country’s leading pain doctors and researchers to hold off, according to this article.

OxyContin in Canada was phased out earlier this year by Purdue and replaced by an abuse-resistant version known as OxyNEO. But the newly-approved generics will use the same older formulation in the now discontinued Oxy-Contin, the article notes.

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Canada OKs generic Oxy that isn’t abuse-resistant

The Canadian government has given the stamp of approval to six generic versions of the widely abused painkiller OxyContin, despite urgings from some of the country’s leading pain doctors and researchers to hold off, according to this article.

The green light from Health Canada came just after the expiration of the patent held by Purdue Pharma for its long-acting formulation of oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin, the article says.

OxyContin in Canada was phased out earlier this year by Purdue and replaced by an abuse-resistant version known as OxyNEO. But the newly-approved generics will use the same older formulation in the now discontinued Oxy-Contin, the article notes.

Canadians are the second-largest consumers of prescription narcotics and other controlled substances per capita in the world, according to the International Narcotics Control Board.

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FDA urged to block generic non-tamper-proof pills

Painkillers without added safety features are expected to flood back into communities in the coming weeks unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration takes preventive action, according to a national organization dedicated to reducing prescription drug abuse. Many popularly abused prescription painkillers, including OxyContin, have been reformulated in recent years to allegedly make them abuse-resistant. But many generic manufacturers are vying to bring their own versions of such drugs to market that don’t include tamper-proof properties. The FDA could allow these generic versions of the old formulations of the drugs to return to the market as early as January 2013, CLAAD says.

Earlier this month, CLAAD and nine other public health and safety organizations sent a letter to the FDA urging the agency to prevent the marketing of generic versions of the drugs that lack abuse-deterrent features.

The reformulation of OxyContin has prompted painkiller addicts across the country to switch to other opiates as well as heroin, recent research has shown.

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Opana follows in Oxy’s wake, with deadly results

Purdue Pharma‘s reformulation of OxyContin was supposedly meant 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. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning that abusers who inject Opana into their bloodstream risk developing a serious blood disorder that could result in kidney failure or death. The blood disorder, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, resulted in kidney failure requiring dialysis in some cases and at least one death, the agency said.

Another effect of Oxy’s reformulation has been a spike in heroin abuse, with painkiller addicts turning to the hardcore street drug when pills become too expensive or scarce, according to a letter published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine. 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.

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Unraveling Big Pharma’s web of deception

If you want to learn more about the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the “pain management” movement and the powerful marketing scheme behind highly addictive opioids, read this article, which focuses on the evolution of Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin. The article notes that while it’s not news that Purdue defrauded the public concerning the safety of its drug – paying a $634.5 million fine in 2007 – what’s disturbing is how commonplace the practice of deception and data suppression is throughout the industry. And it asks an important big-picture question:

“As a generation of Oxy addicts suffers, as Purdue continues to make billions a year in sales of the drug, and cheaper versions are bound for pharmacies next year, what have the rest of us learned? When the next miracle pill comes along, with all its easy promises and assurances, how low will the highs go?”

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For Purdue’s ‘poster children,’ Oxy led to addiction, death

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel has produced an investigative report following up with the “poster children” of OxyContin – a group of seven people who were featured in a promotional video for the painkiller that was put out by Oxy maker Purdue Pharma in the late 1990s. Fourteen years later, it’s a mixed bag. Two of the seven patients have died: one man flipped his car after falling asleep at the wheel, high on OxyContin, while a second man was found dead in his apartment of apparent heart failure. Both men were active opioid abusers at the time of their deaths. A third patient became addicted to Oxy but was able to quit after realizing she was headed for an overdose. Three patients still say the drug helped them cope with their pain and improved their quality of life, while the seventh patient declined to answer questions.

The doctor who enlisted his patients for the video – a pain specialist who was also a paid speaker for Purdue at the time – told the Journal that his statements urging physicians to consider prescribing opioids more often went too far, and that success stories may be “quite rare.” In the video, the doctor had claimed that the rate of addiction among pain patients was much less than 1 percent, but he told the Journal that figure did not come from long-term studies of chronic pain patients.

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