Drug Busts Net Powerful Prescription Painkiller. Part 2

by on Jul.21, 2011, under Prescription Drug

Many doctors have been reluctant to prescribe morphine, and the profession has widely criticized for not doing more for patients in the late stages of cancer, or who are in constant pain from conditions such as advanced arthritis or spinal injuries. OxyContin looked like the solution to that problem. Clinical trials with 6,000 patients had found it not to be addictive, while its timed release feature made it possible for sufferers from intractable, chronic pain to be pain-free for hours, enabling them to engage in normal activities and get a full night’s sleep.

The slow release was expected to reduce the potential for abuse. However, as the insert packaged with the pills warned, that was only when the tablets were swallowed whole: “Taking broken, chewed or crushed tablets could lead to the rapid release and adsorption of a potentially toxic dose of oxycodone.”

Chewing or crushing them is precisely what abusers learned to do. Dissolved in liquid, crushed OxyContin pills can be swallowed, injected or even snorted like cocaine, delivering the whole dose of the narcotic at once.

Its manufacturer, law enforcement officials and the medical profession were caught by surprise as trafficking in the drug mushroomed during the last 10 to 12 months. The entire process of manufacture, distribution and sale of such products is tightly controlled by FDA regulations and federal and state laws, and most experts didn’t think it possible for a drug like OxyContin to be diverted into illegal markets in such volume.

In hindsight, it was realized that so many potential avenues for its diversion exist — from patients who go without pain relief to make a little money to buy groceries or pay the heating bill, to addicts who learn to forge and pass prescriptions, to the small but significant number of doctors and pharmacists who have been caught supplying the tablets to dealers.

Reselling the tablets can be enormously profitable. According to the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), an 80 mg-dose pill that costs $6 at the drug store can bring $65 to $80 on the street.

Prospects for curbing the trafficking in the product do not seem good. A special report by the NDIC, issued in January, concluded, “Continuing increases in the diversion and abuse of OxyContin are likely. Reliable strength, potential prescription cost coverage and significant profit potential make OxyContin attractive to both illicit distributors and abusers.”

Meanwhile patients who have come to rely on OxyContin are becoming apprehensive. If the illegal trade in the drug leads to more stringent controls on its use, and makes doctors reluctant to prescribe it, they are afraid they may be unable to continue to lead the more normal, largely pain-free lives they now enjoy.

For some people, buying cheap medication provides benefits not affordable from a regional drugstore, like the better convenience and variety assortment of products, etc.

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