Oxy Watchdog

Keeping An Eye On OxyContin

Prescription drug disposal bill signed into law

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 16, 2010

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that amends the Controlled Substances Act, reports the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America here. The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act is intended to correct a provision in the original statute that requires drugs to be registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency before they will be accepted for proper disposal. It also increases sentencing guidelines for entities that instead of properly disposing drugs returned to them, use them in illegal activities. Though the bill as approved by the U.S. House of Representatives included a provision for a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the effects of the drugs on waterways, the final version nixed that portion, reports the Association of California Waterways in this release. The bill was originally passed by the House and Senate in early August and late September respectively, on the heels of the creation of the first ever National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Sept. 25th by the DEA.

Read more about the Act, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and the effects of drugs on waterways and the Controlled Substance here.

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Pfizer snaps up maker of less-abusable OxyContin

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 12, 2010

King Pharmaceuticals, the maker of oxycodone-containing painkillers Remoxy and Acurox, has been bought by Pfizer for $3.6 billion, according to this article in the Washington Post. Remoxy was designed to be an abuse-resistant, control-released form of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, but was rejected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008, reports this article from The Street. King also developed Acurox, another abuse-resistant opioid painkiller set to be submitted to the FDA in 2011. According to the Washington Post, with Pfizer at the helm, sales of the drugs could reach $500 million per year. Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, are also developing a less-abusable version of their $3 billion per-year painkiller.

Read about Purdue’s less-abusable version of OxyContin here.

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Opiate addiction treatment faces mixed reviews in U.S.

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 11, 2010

Though buprenorphine, a drug used to fight addiction to opiate painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet, was approved for use in the U.S. in 2002, it hasn’t met with the anticipated amount of success, reports this article from Medpage Today. Unlike methadone, the current opiate treatment drug of choice, buprenorphine partially inhibits the brain from receiving the feeling of euphoria associated with opiate use. What’s novel about the drug is that primary care doctors can prescribe it and patients can then treat themselves from home, rather than checking into a clinic. However, many physicians are hesitant to not only treat addicts, but to take on the added responsibility of prescribing the drug.

A large problem with the treatment of opiate abuse is that the addict can often become addicted to the treatment drug. Though it is virtually impossible to overdose on buprenorphine, it’s not exempt from abuse. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports that buprenorphine ranks among the top 25 most frequently identified substances analyzed in laboratories and in 2006, an estimated 4,440 emergency room visits were associated with buprenorphine misuse.

Despite its abuse in the U.S., buprenorphine has found some success in France, where it’s credited for a decrease in overdose deaths and a six-fold drop in injection drug users.

Watch a video from Medpage Today about buprenorphine here.

Posted in Informational, Pain Advocates, Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Percocet abuse threatens OxyContin’s hold on teen users

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 10, 2010

Though prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in the past ten years with the painkiller OxyContin as the main drug of choice, teen users may now be switching to a similar prescription opiate, Percocet. According to this article in Wicked Local Bridgewater, Massachusetts police report an increase in Percocet-related crime in the past few months. Possible reasons for the switch include a lower price-tag – Percocet sells for $30 per tablet as compared to the $80 price tag on OxyContin – as well as more availability in the wake of the state’s crackdown on OxyContin. Like Oxy, Percocet contains oxycodone, is a Schedule II narcotic, and is a highly addictive “gateway” drug which may lead to stronger street drugs such as heroin.

Read more about Massachusetts’ battle with Oxy here.

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Congress examines interstate prescription drug abuse

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 7, 2010

In the midst of an ever-growing prescription drug abuse epidemic in the U.S., a congressional caucus met late September to examine interstate cooperation of prescription monitoring programs to better prevent doctor shopping, reports this article form Wicked Local Watertown.

Massachusetts Senator Steven Tolman testified before the caucus about the importance of sharing prescription data among states. Tolman oversees a state in which opiates like heroin and OxyContin are now the leading cause of death for young people, causing nearly 15 such deaths per week.

“Oxy hijacks your brain,” Sen. Tolman told OxyWatchdog in a July 2010 interview. “It grabs you. And it’s $80 a pill versus $4 for a bag of heroin. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s in every community.”

To read more about prescription drug abuse monitoring programs, go here.
Read about Mass. struggle with OxyContin here.

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

Small community reacts to prescription drug abuse

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 6, 2010

Prescription drug abuse is climbing in the quiet Michigan community of Midland, and local authorities are not pleased. According to this article from Midland Daily News, a new report from 1016 Recovery Network shows the number of people seeking treatment for opiate addiction in the Midland area is higher than the number of people seeking help with alcoholism. The Midland Area Partnership for Drug-Free Youth, partnering with local law enforcement, has put together a television show called “Inside the Medicine Cabinet” to discuss the growing problem, reports this article from ABC News 12. Set to air Wednesday evenings throughout the month of October, the program features a panel of local addiction specialists and law enforcement discussing the trend of prescription drug use among youth.

Posted in Informational, Surveys & Statistics, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fla. doctors find few repercussions in fraudulent prescribing practices

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 3, 2010

More than a fourth of doctors in Florida found to have illegally prescribed medication are still practicing and prescribing without repercussions, reports this investigation by the St. Petersburg Times. The in-depth investigation found that the system for identifying and disciplining the doctors is slow and ineffective, doing little to curb a prescription drug abuse epidemic that kills seven Floridians per day. Though some of the doctors prescribed the drugs for illicit reasons, most were certified professionals taking advantage of the lucrative dealing. Whats more, the state’s prescription drug monitoring program that went into effect Oct. 1 leaves loopholes that do not address the trend.

Read about Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program here.
Information on pill-related overdoes in Florida can be found here.

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Australia struggles with booming Oxy abuse, doctor shopping

Posted by Oxy Watchdog on October 2, 2010

An investigative report in Australia this week shone a light on the country’s growing oxycodone abuse problem, one that closely mirrors the epidemic-like situation in the U.S. According this report from ABC Four Corners, there are 1.8 million new prescriptions for the opioid-based drug every year, and the majority of addiction and recreational uses stems from doctor shopping. Those trying to obtain multipal prescriptions for the drug often know the system better than the doctors themselves, and frequently take advantage of the government-subsidized health program to receive the prescriptions at a deeply discounted rate. They then sell them for enormous profits.

To watch the report, go here.

Read about the increase of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. here.

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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 »

 
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