Vice Squad
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
OxyContin Developments

Purdue Pharma LP sold almost $2 billion worth of the popular painkiller OxyContin last year. OxyContin (with active ingredient oxycodone) was designed to be a time-released opioid that provides 12 hours of pain relief from a single tablet. Crushing the tablet prior to injesting, however, undoes the time release chemistry, and the crushed powder can be chewed, snorted, drunk in an alcohol or water cocktail, or further prepared and injected for an intense high. This discovery has led to lots of problems and even death for some OxyContin addicts and experimenters.

The Wall Street Journal reports today (page D3) that a reformulated version of OxyContin (which is no longer under patent protection) developed by Pain Therapeutics, Inc., may make it harder to undermine the time-release mechanism. From the WSJ article:
The company mixes oxycodone with three other substances it declines to identify, yielding a viscous fluid that Pain Therapeutics says won't release the oxycodone when crushed or dissolved in water or alcohol. Taken normally, the company says, the drug is still slowly released in a 12-hour period through the stomach and intestinal lining.
Pain Therapeutics issued this press release today.

Pressure has been growing on Purdue Pharma to do more to prevent OxyContin abuse. Last week, one of the manufacturing subsidiaries of Purdue paid $2 million to settle a case brought by the DEA alleging insufficient record-keeping. In December, the Government Accounting Office released a report (63-page pdf available here) concerning the abuse and diversion of OxyContin. Among the factors that the GAO identified as contributing to abuse was the original warning label, which advised against crushing the pill as that would lead to rapid release of the oxycodone. Purdue also has taken to training doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and law enforcement officers on how to detect potential abuses:
Two years after beginning their law enforcement training efforts, the three trained directors are in big demand, booking nearly six months in advance. Ritch Wagner was a former Nebraska Drug Enforcement Officer, and is now director of the Purdue Pharma program. Wagner says his team is training law enforcement and health care professionals about what to look for and what steps they can take to minimize prescription drug abuse.
Vice control has a way of enlisting "civilians" as informants. Meanwhile, the feds continue their dreadful, over-the-top campaign against pain-treatment doctors and their patients -- a campaign mentioned previously by Vice Squad in December and in February.

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