Oxy Watchdog

Keeping An Eye On OxyContin

Archive for September, 2010

New opioid painkiller may rival OxyContin in the marketplace

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 30, 2010

As the pharmaceutical companies Grunenthal and Johnson & Johnson release positive final-stage trial results for their new opioid painkiller tapentadol extended-release, market predictors estimate the new drug will rival or possibly even replace OxyContin as the top medication for chronic pain. According to this article in Trading Markets.com, Datamonitor forecasts sales to reach over $800 million by 2019. If approved for sale in the U.S., tapentadol will be the first new opioid to reach the marketplace in over 25 years. As an opioid-based, Schedule II drug like OxyContin, tapentadol may also become highly addictive and should be used under careful supervision, states Johnson & Johnson in this press release.


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

Watchdog Editorial: Prescription take-back day holds promise if public is made aware

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 28, 2010

A police officer loads drugs from the Take-Back day sponsored by the San Ramon Regional Hospital Foundation and the San Ramon Police Department

Though Saturday’s DEA-sponsored Prescription Drug Take-Back Day could potentially affect the dissemination of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, future success of the initiative hinges on local efforts and public awareness. A little funding would be nice too.

Chances are that most people with unused prescription drugs received conflicting information on the best way to dispose of them, reports Media Health Leaders.com. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Office of National Drug Control Policy recommend tossing the pills in the toilet or trash, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service state that the chemicals from flushed drugs are harmful to the environment and end up in our drinking water.

“I believe this event has done a lot to help people throughout the country understand the need to get rid of these medications,” says April Rovero, who founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse after her son, Joey, died in December 2009 from a lethal combination of alcohol and misused prescription medication.

Rovero, who assisted the San Ramon Regional Hospital Foundation and the San Ramon Police Department’s take-back event on Saturday, says that while the public generally understands they need to dispose of their medications rather than hold onto them, the real nature of the prescription drug epidemic is still widely misunderstood. The event, she says, gave her organization the opportunity to talk with numerous individuals about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

“We spent time talking to younger people whom we thought might have children, explaining the risks, and we spent time talking with older people about making sure younger members of their family don’t raid their medicine cabinet,” she says. “They listened, and I believe they ‘got it,’ especially when I referenced my son’s death as a result of prescription medication.”

Medical News Today reports that as much as 17 percent of prescribed medications go unused. Such availability of these drugs has lead to prescription abuse among teenagers becoming second only to illegal marijuana, reports this article from Psychiatric News.

Boxes containing 400 pounds of medications collected for incineration at the San Ramon Take-Back event

To help curb the estimated 39,000 people who die annually of prescription drug abuse, the U.S. Congress earlier this year quickly and unanimously passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, a bill which creates a take-back day (Sept. 25) and outlines a method for disposing of prescription drugs. Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound familiar – until last week, national media hardly uttered a squeak on the topic.

Though there was no national policy on disposing of prescription drugs prior to the bill, local programs and organizations were leading the effort to inform the public of the epidemic and proper disposal practices.

“Mostly, people seemed to just hang on to the pills because they don’t know what to do with them,” Rovero says. “It was very obvious that the majority of people didn’t know about the two drop off sites in our area.”

Last week, Watchdog reported on several city and state initiatives that met with varying success. In fact, only 21 states are participating in regularly recurring take-back programs, according to the Drug Take-Back Network.

Though the San Ramon program and others across the nation may have collected a record amount of the unused drugs last week, Watchdog wonders if Drug Take-Back Day in coming years will generate the same media buzz and thereby quantities of potentially dangerous medications?

Watchdog also finds it troubling that despite the legislature’s willingness to support and aid the cause of preventing prescription drug abuse, no additional funding was set aside for the initiative. Instead, the program relies mainly on local efforts. Plagued with an economic recession, a fledgling health care plan, and an ongoing war, the country hardly has any funding leftover – even if prescription drug abuse is one of our nation’s top killers.

This, despite the fact that a recent study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that prescription drug abuse has increased 400 percent in the U.S. between 1998 and 2008. Another disturbing report recently found that prescription drug abuse rivals and in some states replaces car crashes as the number one killer of people under the age of 34.

With statistics like these coming out regularly on the problem of OxyContin and other highly addictive prescription medications, it’s imperative to keep this issue on the front burner – beyond Sept. 25.

Watch Rovero speak on her son’s death and the dangers of prescription drug abuse here.

Listen to Rovero speak about opiate abuse here and here.

By Dana Owens, Oxy Watchdog contributor

Posted in Editorial | 1 Comment »

Take-back day may have little effect on pill hoarding, addiction

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 25, 2010

The increased attention paid on prescription drug abuse combined with the possibility of doctors becoming more hesitant to prescribe certain pain medications may cause hoarding of unused pills rather than their return at events such as today’s national Prescritpion Drug Take-Back initiative, according to this blog posted by Time Magazine’s Healthland. Unlike the handgun buyback program, which offers money for returned firearms, the drug take-back offers little incentive for those who might be saving their painkillers such as OxyContin for an emergency or future use. What’s more, the blog cites two studies that show the majority of people who abuse painkillers did not become addicted during pain treatment and the majority of those admitted into rehab for prescription drug abuse had previously been treated for addiction.

To read more about today’s take-back program, go here.

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

Watchdog Reports: Panel says doctors, Internet main instigator of prescription drug abuse

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 24, 2010

Two large bottles of liquid oxycondone proved a powerful visual for the practice of over-prescribing pain medication that leads to or aids in prescription drug abuse at Wednesday’s panel presentation discussing the growing national trend, hosted by Chico State University in California.

The three-hour panel presentation was put together by Not in our Town Glenn County, managed by Jim Bettencourt and attend by 60 students, parents and community members. OxyWatchdog contributor Esmeralda F. Ramirez was there to hear what the panel had to say.

According to Bettencourt, the irresponsibility of doctors prescribing an excess of a drug is not uncommon and many physicians do not screen patients to see what is in their bodies. When a patient in pain is asking for a large amount of Vicodin, for example, the physician should ask for a simple urine test to check for existing medication in the patient’s system and prescribe the necessary amount of drugs, he said.

When patients want more than what they are prescribed, it’s a sign that they have become addicted, said Salvadore Biondolillo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which is sponsoring this Saturday’s Take-Back Day. A classic example, he said, is a patient that has been taking hydrocodone, then switches to oxycodone, then OxyContin, and finally to heroin because it is much cheaper than prescription drugs.

A dangerous online world

If someone with an addiction cannot get enough of their prescription drug of choice from a physician, they go online, according to Biondolillo. Websites are one of the reasons prescription drug abuse has been increasing in the past few years, he said: there are sites that contain a multitude of information for many kinds of prescription drugs, and it is difficult to monitor all of them. Biondolillo refers to the Internet as “the perfect storm” because prescriptions that come from overseas are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or are often placebos, he said.

Drugs next door

Another way addicts find prescription drugs is through friends, family or street sells, Biondolillo said. When physicians prescribe a excessive amount of drugs, there are bound to be leftovers, said Lee Snook, medical director of the Metropolitan Pain Management Consultants Inc. There are a lot of cases in which the leftovers are divided and sold on the street or are given for free to friends and family as experimentation, he said.

A generation of young addicts

The best place to discuss and educate the community about the rising problem of prescription drug abuse is in colleges throughout the U.S., according to Susan Foster, vice president and director of policy, research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). College is where young people start to experiment, she said, and prescription drug abuse on many college campuses is rampant.

One interesting sidenote: a study by CASA found that in the early 1990s, those that used prescription drugs to get high were people who had already been using illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin, Foster said. In the early- to mid-2000s, however, the study showed that prescription drug abuse was coming from high school and college students, she said. They were experimenting with those drugs, replacing marijuana as the experimentation drug historically common among younger generations.

There are different reasons why people begin abusing illicit drugs and other substances, Foster noted. But when it comes to prescription drugs, advertising – to which young people are particularly susceptible – plays a role because it creates a mindset that everything can be cured with a pill.

“We have to change the culture of this disorder,” Foster said.

Pills as life-threatening as guns

Although the choice is always up to the individual, parents play a big role in helping their children stay away from prescription drugs, according to Snook. Prescription drugs are like guns, he said. They both kill, and they both need to be locked away from children and disposed of properly if they are not needed anymore.

Snook, for his part, tries to help people recover because he himself is a former addict and understands the hardships associated with addiction.

“I see Satan’s eyes in the person I’m trying to save,” Snook said.

By Esmeralda F. Ramirez, exclusive to OxyWatchdog

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

Existing take-back events demonstrate successes, failures

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 22, 2010

While the Drug Enforcement Administration may hold high hopes for its first-ever national Prescription Drug Take-Back initiative, many communities around the U.S. and the world have already experienced both successes and failures of existing programs.

In 2006, Northern California held its first and only large-scale take-back program in which more than 1,500 residents disposed of 3,634 pounds of pharmaceutical waste, according to the Report on the San Francisco Bay Area’s Safe Medicine Disposal Days, but due to expense and inconvenience it was abandoned. Meanwhile, last Saturday marked the small Massachusetts town of Abington’s second take-back event which more than tripled the efforts of the first “Clean Out the Cabinet!” campaign, reports this article at EnterpriseNews.com. The campaign was so successful, the town’s police department is planning a third event this winter.

According to this report by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, there is a great variety of ways in which cities, counties or states can participate including single-day collections, recurring annual events, or mail-back and drop-off options. Outside the U.S., Australia, Canada and eleven European nations all host similar events – with varying success – to combat the ever-increasing rate of prescription drug abuse.

Read more about the DEA’s take-back initiative in the U.S. here.

Find a collection site near you here.

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

Flushing, trashing unused prescription drugs poses environmental threat

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 21, 2010

The effects of Saturday’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Day won’t just be felt by people – the environment may also reap the rewards. According to press releases from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the improper disposal of medications may have adverse effects on the ecosystem. While the Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing unused prescriptions down the toilet to prevent abuse, such practices cause contamination to the nation’s waterways.

According to this report from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, flushed drugs kill the bacteria that break down waste in sewage plants, damaging septic systems. In fact, a 2008 Associated Press investigation found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of at least 41 million Americans in 24 major metropolitan areas, the IISG reports. According to Ecolocalizer.com, some medicines have even been associated with altering the sex characteristics of fish.

During one of the national take-back events this Saturday, once the drugs are handed in to law enforcement personnel  they will likely be incinerated at high temperatures.

Read more about the take-back initiative here.

Find a collection site near you here.

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

DEA launches first-ever Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 20, 2010

In response to the nation’s growing prescription drug abuse problem, the Drug Enforcement Administration is sponsoring the first-ever National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, Sept. 25. Government, community, public health and law enforcement partners will be collecting expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs for destruction at sites across the nation from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Watch Joanne Peterson of Learn To Cope weigh in on the event here, and read more about the DEA’s campaign here.

Find a collection site near you here.

Posted in Policy & Regulation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Prescription drug abuse on the rise among Canadian students

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 19, 2010

A recent Canadian study on student drug use reveals that students use drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Tylenol 3 and Demerol as early as seventh grade, reports CBCNews.com. The self-administered, anonymous survey for Ontario students grades 7-12, conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, shows drug use doubled from eight to ninth grade – from 11 percent to 22 percent – in 2009. School officials blame the ease of access to prescription drugs for the increase in abuse.

Go here to read the complete study from CAMH.
To read about prescription drug overdose among U.S. teens, go here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Man steals baby food to support heroin addiction

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 19, 2010

A trend among abusers of the painkiller OxyContin is to switch to heroin, which costs less and is often easier to obtain – a trend exemplified by Sean Roderick of Massachusetts. Roderick, 30, recently pleaded guilty to stealing baby formula from a supermarket with the intention to resell it in order to support his heroin addiction, reports this article on Seacoastonline.com. Though Roderick told the judge he is committed to beating an addiction stemming from the OxyContin he was prescribed for knee surgery, the judge holds little hope.

“From this court’s experience, we’re going to see Mr. Roderick back again,” said the judge, according to the article. “It happens in every heroin case.”

To read more about the Oxy-to-heroin trend, go here.

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

Fla. drug monitoring program faces delay, criticism

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on September 16, 2010

Florida’s new prescription drug monitoring program may be put on hold due to a bid dispute despite the increasing rate of drug abuse in the state, reports this article in the St. Petersburg Times. One of the companies that lost out on the bid to create the program is now claiming the state health department’s selection process was unfair. What’s more, the program has already faced criticism over loopholes that could allow for doctor shopping. Florida is one of about 12 states in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program, yet prescription drugs are now the number one cause of overdose in the state.

To read more about prescription drug monitoring programs in the U.S. from the Drug Enforcement Administration, go here.

Posted in Litigation, Policy & Regulation | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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