But Purdue parlayed their time-release system not only into the patent for OxyContin. They also went on a PR blitz, claiming their drug was unique because of the time-release element and implied that it was so difficult to abuse that the risk of addiction was “under 1%.”

OxyContin became an instant hit among doctors, many of whom saw it as a wonder drug in the battle against the debilitating effects of chronic pain. As the good news spread sales of the drug mushroomed, rising from $40 million in 1996 to more than $1 billion in 2001, outstripping even Viagra. Meanwhile, Purdue’s campaign to extend the use of powerful narcotics to ordinary chronic ailments – for which the drug has been well documented to help – proved highly successful. By 2003, over half of the OxyContin prescriptions written in the United States were written by a primary care physician…

But doctors already regularly prescribe Oxy for children suffering conditions of moderate or severe pain, a practice that’s accompanied by little to no data predicting how it might affect them and what their long-term outcomes might be…

A 2008 study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics found that 62 percent of pediatric outpatient visits resulted in the prescription of a drug for off-label use. When you look at only the prescription of pain medications, the number jumps to 86 percent…

Three top executives, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of being liable for misleading regulators, the public and doctors about the risk of addiction, were fined a combined total of $35 million. None faced prison. And while the larger $600 million fine was one of the largest ever levied against a pharmaceutical company, it represented less than half of Purdue Pharma’s annual OxyContin sales…

There was a salient thread connecting all the OxyContin addicts I spoke with, and that’s how fast they all said it happens, how quickly they all became addicted, and how surprised they were at their physical dependence. Each of them recited a litany of opioid substances that they had abused in various combinations: Methadone, heroin, Diuladid, Percocet, Suboxone, Vicodin, and Morphine. They swallowed, snorted, shot, and free-based the pills, sometimes even mixing them with crack. But they all told me that the first opioid that really got them, the one that was easiest to get and gave the most powerful high, was OxyContin…

I don’t think I’ll ever understand the lure of Oxy… I took it at varying doses for quite some time, and I don’t think I would choose to take it again. Looking back, I just don’t think it worked that well.

None of the men and women I spoke with used street heroin before taking OxyContin. All of them used it after using OxyContin. In fact, since Purdue Pharma introduced a reformulated OxyContin in 2010 containing chemical safety-nets meant to render it less easily abused — the pills no longer dissolve in water, making them more difficult to cook and shoot intravenously — the number of addicts switching to heroin has skyrocketed.

In a study of 2,500 OxyContin addicts followed from July 2009 until March 2012, researchers found a 17 percent drop in OxyContin abuse. The study found that almost one-fourth of participants were able to abuse OxyContin despite the reformulation. Sixty-six percent switched to heroin. Many have also latched onto to Opana, another painkiller. But according to the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, OxyContin’s falling street price is a sign that the $100 million reformulation is working at thwarting abuse of the drug. Getting high on the new Oxy requires swallowing three or four pills rather than one, but abusers are still finding unusual ways to break down their safety mechanism, through microwaving and freezing, as well as carefully filing them down to powder…

The number of armed robberies on pharmacies in the United States rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, concurrent with the rise of opioid abuse and addiction. Purdue launched Rx Patrol as a resource for pharmacists. They provide up-to-the-minute crime statistics — as of September 16, 2012, there have been 2,527 robberies and 1,541 burglaries at pharmacies since the site began compiling data in 2002..

All of the stories in this article are about drug addicts who started self-medicating at a very young age… and to blame Big Pharma products isn’t right.  The people in this article would have become addicted to some substance — whether opioids were available or not.

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