Oxy Watchdog

Keeping An Eye On OxyContin

The end of a journey

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on February 4, 2015

1930428_612120663129_8445_nDear Oxy Watchdog readers,

Six years ago, very shortly after my brother Pat’s death of a heroin overdose, I decided that I wanted to do something to increase awareness about the epidemic of prescription painkiller and opiate addiction in America today. This blog, launched just a few months after Pat passed away, was intended to be a place where people could come to learn more about a problem that is increasingly affecting families across the nation. But it became much more than that. Through the blog, many people from various walks of life reached out to me and shared their own stories. Sometimes these stories were from other families who had lost loved ones, filling me with sadness at the tragic loss of life and the horrors of addiction. Sometimes these stories were from chronic pain sufferers who were indignant at what they saw as my mission to interfere with their medications. Sometimes these stories were from addicts themselves who spoke openly about their own challenges and the heartbreak their drug use had caused them.

What these stories illustrate is clear: we have a problem in this country with prescription painkillers. They are responsible for more than 16,000 deaths each year, and the widespread abuse of opioids has triggered a resurgence in the use of heroin. But even after six years of running this blog, when it comes to fixing this problem, I don’t have the answer. I agree that stricter prescribing rules are probably a good thing, and that state prescription monitoring databases can help us understand the scope of the problem and identify drug seekers and pill pushers. But from what I have observed, these measures have had the unintended effect of driving many people hooked on pain pills to use heroin, so that isn’t fixing the problem either. I also strongly believe that there is a time and a place for opioids. My father battled chronic lymphocytic leukemia for nine years before dying at age 47, and opioids undoubtedly eased his suffering and improved his quality of life. But it is important to note that opioids were originally intended for a very specific medical purpose: to treat short-term post-surgical and trauma-related pain, and for palliative care. The fact is that these drugs carry a substantial risk of addiction: numerous studies have shown that at least 15% and as many as 40% of patients will become addicted to opioids—even when taken as prescribed.

My brother was a wonderful person, full of laughter and love and light. He was the opposite of what you think of when you picture an IV heroin user. And while there are many factors that likely contributed to his substance abuse—including the fact that addiction is a brain disease with a genetic component—it is difficult to ignore the larger context; that our market is flooded with powerful painkillers, which too often fall into the wrong hands. In 2010, 254 million prescriptions for such drugs were filled in the U.S.—enough to medicate every adult in America around the clock for a month. Pat was just one of those recipients, and his progression from pill abuse to fatal heroin overdose is not uncommon. In 2010, almost 3,000 young adults age 18-25 died of pill overdoses—eight deaths a day. And heroin is making a comeback because it provides the same high, but is vastly cheaper—use of the street drug is up by a staggering 45%.

In addition to this blog, I have spent the last six years working on a book, Generation Rx. The book, published in August 2014, details my brother’s addiction and death, interspersed with stories of others whose lives have been affected by opiate addiction. I felt it was important to speak openly about what happened to Pat, because if it happened to him, it could happen to anyone. Our society as a whole still stigmatizes addiction, so the struggles of those affected by this epidemic are shrouded in shame. My hope is that my book, and this blog, will help change that. I have often struggled with the question of how Pat would feel about the sharing of some very intimate details of his addiction and death. Sometimes I think he’d be okay with it, since one of his greatest qualities was his desire to help others; sometimes I think he’d be hurt, embarrassed and angry. It has also been extremely difficult to throw my family’s story into the public eye, though they’ve been supportive of my mission to further awareness.

Six years ago today, we received the phone call no one ever wants to get. Six years ago feels like yesterday; I can still feel the warmth of Pat’s hug and hear his goofy giggle. I have spent the last six years trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never see Pat again, to give him a legacy, to feel that his death was not in vain and—though I’d give anything to have it be otherwise—to believe that in death, he has helped others. It has been a long six years, and now that Generation Rx is published, I will be stepping away from Oxy Watchdog to focus on what lies ahead for me and my family. While I will no longer be updating the blog with news items, I hope that the resources and personal stories contained here will continue to be useful to others.

Thanks for reading.

Erin Marie Daly

Posted in Informational | Leave a Comment »

The end of a journey

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on February 4, 2015

1930428_612120663129_8445_nDear Oxy Watchdog readers,

Six years ago, very shortly after my brother Pat’s death of a heroin overdose, I decided that I wanted to do something to increase awareness about the epidemic of prescription painkiller and opiate addiction in America today. This blog, launched just a few months after Pat passed away, was intended to be a place where people could come to learn more about a problem that is increasingly affecting families across the nation. But it became much more than that. Through the blog, many people from various walks of life reached out to me and shared their own stories. Sometimes these stories were from other families who had lost loved ones, filling me with sadness at the tragic loss of life and the horrors of addiction. Sometimes these stories were from chronic pain sufferers who were indignant at what they saw as my mission to interfere with their medications. Sometimes these stories were from addicts themselves who spoke openly about their own challenges and the heartbreak their drug use had caused them.

What these stories illustrate is clear: we have a problem in this country with prescription painkillers. They are responsible for more than 16,000 deaths each year, and the widespread abuse of opioids has triggered a resurgence in the use of heroin. But even after six years of running this blog, when it comes to fixing this problem, I don’t have the answer. I agree that stricter prescribing rules are probably a good thing, and that state prescription monitoring databases can help us understand the scope of the problem and identify drug seekers and pill pushers. But from what I have observed, these measures have had the unintended effect of driving many people hooked on pain pills to use heroin, so that isn’t fixing the problem either. I also strongly believe that there is a time and a place for opioids. My father battled chronic lymphocytic leukemia for nine years before dying at age 47, and opioids undoubtedly eased his suffering and improved his quality of life. But it is important to note that opioids were originally intended for a very specific medical purpose: to treat short-term post-surgical and trauma-related pain, and for palliative care. The fact is that these drugs carry a substantial risk of addiction: numerous studies have shown that at least 15% and as many as 40% of patients will become addicted to opioids—even when taken as prescribed.

My brother was a wonderful person, full of laughter and love and light. He was the opposite of what you think of when you picture an IV heroin user. And while there are many factors that likely contributed to his substance abuse—including the fact that addiction is a brain disease with a genetic component—it is difficult to ignore the larger context; that our market is flooded with powerful painkillers, which too often fall into the wrong hands. In 2010, 254 million prescriptions for such drugs were filled in the U.S.—enough to medicate every adult in America around the clock for a month. Pat was just one of those recipients, and his progression from pill abuse to fatal heroin overdose is not uncommon. In 2010, almost 3,000 young adults age 18-25 died of pill overdoses—eight deaths a day. And heroin is making a comeback because it provides the same high, but is vastly cheaper—use of the street drug is up by a staggering 45%.

In addition to this blog, I have spent the last six years working on a book, Generation Rx. The book, published in August 2014, details my brother’s addiction and death, interspersed with stories of others whose lives have been affected by opiate addiction. I felt it was important to speak openly about what happened to Pat, because if it happened to him, it could happen to anyone. Our society as a whole still stigmatizes addiction, so the struggles of those affected by this epidemic are shrouded in shame. My hope is that my book, and this blog, will help change that. I have often struggled with the question of how Pat would feel about the sharing of some very intimate details of his addiction and death. Sometimes I think he’d be okay with it, since one of his greatest qualities was his desire to help others; sometimes I think he’d be hurt, embarrassed and angry. It has also been extremely difficult to throw my family’s story into the public eye, though they’ve been supportive of my mission to further awareness.

Six years ago today, we received the phone call no one ever wants to get. Six years ago feels like yesterday; I can still feel the warmth of Pat’s hug and hear his goofy giggle. I have spent the last six years trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never see Pat again, to give him a legacy, to feel that his death was not in vain and—though I’d give anything to have it be otherwise—to believe that in death, he has helped others. It has been a long six years, and now that Generation Rx is published, I will be stepping away from Oxy Watchdog to focus on what lies ahead for me and my family. While I will no longer be updating the blog with news items, I hope that the resources and personal stories contained here will continue to be useful to others.

Thanks for reading.

Erin Marie Daly

Posted in Informational | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Opiate drug use in workplace nearly doubles

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 28, 2010

Use of opiate drugs in the workplace, such as OxyContin, has increased by 40 percent from 2005 to 2009 , according to data from Quest Diagnostics, a diagnostic testing company. This article in the New York Times reports that while working while under the influence can pose safety risks, many employees may be taking legal pain medications prescribed by doctors, and impairment can be difficult to prove. Last year alone, the rate of employees testing positive for prescription drugs rose by 18 percent, mirroring similar trends of rising prescription drug use in the U.S. population overall.

Read about prescription drug abuse trends in the U.S. here.

Posted in Pain Advocates, Surveys & Statistics, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fla. police, pharmacists align to curb drug abuse in state

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 25, 2010

In an effort to decrease the growing prescription drug abuse problem in Florida, county sheriff departments have reached out to pharmacists with positive results, reports this article in the Chipley Paper. After one sheriff wrote a letter last year, other departments have used it as a template requesting pharmacists to use extra precaution when filling prescriptions for highly abused painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and other narcotics. In response, some pharmacies have adopted a blanket policy in which they will not fill a prescription from out of town, while others will call the physician to verify the legitimacy of the prescription. According to the article, oxycodone was responsible for 1,948 Florida deaths in 2009 and the state has faced a number of issues with its prescription monitoring program and with doctors’ fraudulent prescribing practices.

To read about prescription drug abuse in Florida, go here.

Posted in Policy & Regulation, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New brand of prescription painkiller oxycodone approved

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 23, 2010

A new form of oxycodone hydrochloride, a synthetic opiate like the brand name drug OxyContin, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week, reports this release from the FDA. Lehigh Valley Technologies formulated the brand-name Oxycodone HCI as a morphine-derived painkiller to rival Purdue Pharma’s best-selling brand OxyContin. Purdue has tried to limit production of time-release and generic brands of oxycodone and has been embroiled in several lawsuits to maintain control of its $3 billion-per-year drug. According to its website, Lehigh Valley has developed its own version of abuse-deterrent drugs. In 2009, Lehigh Valley received a warning from the FDA for marketing an unapproved version of morphine, as detailed in this letter from the FDA. Like the brand-name OxyContin, Oxycodone HCI is a Schedule II narcotic and highly prone to addiction.

Read more about Purdue’s suppression of generic forms of oxycodone here.

Posted in Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Makers of Oxy contribute to prescription monitoring programs

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 22, 2010

Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, contributed $200,000 towards the support and implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs earlier this week, according to this article from News-Medical.net. The monies were contributed to the non-profit National Association of State Controlled Substances Authorities and will go toward grants which assist states to maintain prescription monitoring programs, the Association’s main focus. In the article, a Purdue representative states that the pharmaceutical company has been supporting appropriately-designed monitoring programs to help reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. According to the article, the Association will manage the funding of grants and Purdue will have no input in the final selection process. Though OxyContin abuse has skyrocketed in the U.S. and abroad, Purdue Pharma makes a reported $3 billion per year on the opiate painkiller.

Read more about prescription monitoring programs here.

Posted in Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Heroin use increases in Utah, abusers younger than ever

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 21, 2010

As abuse of heroin in Utah climbs upward, authorities are finding the age of users is going down, sometimes as young as 13 or 14 years old, reports this article on ksl.com. Though OxyContin and marijuana tend to be more popular among youths, the costly price drives them to a less expensive alternative. The fact that the dealers have become extremely sophisticated – often making heroin easier to obtain than cigarettes or alcohol for teens – makes the problem more prevalent. Though the cost of heroin is cheaper for users in the Salt Lake City area, the average age of whom is 16 to 23, the cost can be far more deadly since the drug is now 60 percent pure, whereas in the 1970s it was only three percent pure.

Read about the Oxy-to-heroin trend among teens here.

Posted in Crime, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

States move closer to sharing prescription databases, curbing doctor shopping

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 19, 2010

Beginning next year, states in the U.S. will edge closer to unifying their prescription drug monitoring programs to share information and potentially cut down on doctor shopping, reports this article from CBS Business News. Though interstate prescription database sharing has been discussed for some years, the inconsistencies among each state’s program make unifying the system challenging, according to this report from the Council of State Governments. Because prescriptions drugs are the second-most abused drugs in the nation behind marijuana, nearly every state now has an existing or pending monitoring program aimed at curbing the epidemic.

Read about the Congressional caucus that examined interstate drug abuse here.

Posted in Policy & Regulation, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New drug for Oxy, heroin addiction approved by FDA

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 18, 2010

A new treatment for opioid addiction – which includes heroin and painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin – was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this week, according to this article in USA Today. Unlike existing treatments which are essentially low-dose versions of the drug, Vivitrol is a once-monthly injection that blocks the effects of opiate drugs and is non-addictive. Though Vivitrol will sell for about $1,100 per injection, the creators are developing an implant that will last for six months, reports this article in the Washington Post. The article also cites a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse which found that about 810,000 Americans are addicted to heroin and another 1.85 million to opioid painkillers such as OxyContin.

Read about the drug buprenorphine used in opioid addiction treatment here.

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Policy & Regulation, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Prescription Take-Back Day yields 121 tons of drugs

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 17, 2010

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency pronounced Prescription Drug Take-Back Day a success after results of the first-ever national initiative were tallied earlier this month. According to this press release from the DEA, more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs were collected at over 4,000 take-back sites across the country. Though the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act signed into law earlier this week makes returning unused prescription drugs more feasible, the DEA plans to keep Sept. 25 designated as Prescription Drug Take-Back Day until more permanent measures are in place.

Read more on the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act here.

Find more information on the DEA’s National Take-Back Day here.

Posted in Policy & Regulation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: