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Monday, August 1, 2011

Purdue Says, "Safety Matters."

Nowhere...nowhere in America is more in need of resources to combat rx abuse than Appalachia, even more specifically Southern Ohio and Scioto County. But, how can the area acquire the funds that are so desperately needed? How about calling on some big bucks from Purdue Pharma?

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, has established a website,, to help with the rx drug health epidemic. At the site, Purdue emphasizes "the importance of providing relief while preventing abuse." The site emphasizes that Pharma is dedicated to reducing the terrible effects of prescription abuse.

Here is the pledge from Purdue:

"The under treatment of pain and the abuse of prescription pain medications are two important public health problems that are increasingly at odds in our society.

"Pain affects millions of Americans each year and is one of the top reasons people seek medical care. The annual cost of pain in the U.S. is estimated to be more than $100 billion, including healthcare expenses, lost income, and lost productivity.

"At the same time, the illegal trafficking (or diversion) and abuse of prescription medicines has become a serious public health problem in the United States.

"At Purdue Pharma L.P., we are working with healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and local communities across the country to help curb diversion and abuse of medications, while making sure these medicines remain available for appropriate medical use. We have developed an array of programs focused on education, prevention, and deterrence.

"We have developed to help healthcare professionals, families and communities, and law enforcement officials learn about and utilize these resources to help reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription medications."

I believe Purdue is making these efforts to improve their image and to appease the public.To their twin concerns of "providing relief" and "preventing abuse," Purdue must add and address two other components -- overdistribution and treatment. They must stop the flood of distribution and devote a significant percentage of OxyContin profits to fight addiction through treatment and rehabilitation.


The public is outraged over the outrageous distribution of OxyContin. Consider just a couple of statistics concerning oxycodone distribution: During 2009 Florida distributed 523 million doses of oxycodone, up 100 million from 2008. From 2001 to 2008, more than 2,000 Floridians died of overdoses of oxycodone, the St. Petersburg Times reported. How can this rampant distribution be allowed to continue? Everyone involved must be held responsible.

According to Larry Golborn, host of the Prescription Addiction Radio Show, "The public is beginning to understand that OxyContin is simply a controlled release form of oxycodone. Oxycodone has been available to medicine for over 60 years and it was Purdue Pharma starting in late 1995 who apparently realized that marketing a product similar to heroin would be highly profitable." (Larry Golborn, "The FDA and OxyContin,", August 25 2009)

Purdue Pharma has to take measures to help stop the free distribution of their drug.


If Purdue is so concerned about working with healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and local communities, it should pour some of its huge profits (sales of $3 billion by as early as 2001) into treating those who have been devastated by their product.

No, I'm not talking about the 2007 settlement to resolve criminal and civil charges related to the drug’s “misbranding.” Then, Purdue agreed to pay some $600 million in fines and other payments after pleading guilty of misleading regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential to be abused. They had conducted one of the most aggressive marketing campaign ever undertaken by a pharmaceutical company. Most believe this was a very small price to pay for their crimes.

Instead, I'm talking about now. It's time for Purdue Pharma to take responsibility for the large-scale damage done.

As far back as 2001, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on Purdue Pharma to devote a specified percentage of its profits to treatment and rehabilitation of OxyContin addiction, resulting from both legitimate and illicit use.

In a letter to Dr. Richard Sackler, president of Purdue Pharma, Blumenthal recommended several reforms aimed at restricting the availability of OxyContin and educating physicians about the proper use of the drug.

"This extraordinarily powerful medicine promises tremendous benefits to people who suffer from severe chronic pain, but it also has led to widespread misuse, diversion, criminal wrongdoing, and related problems. Addiction is a real, present and growing danger," wrote Blumenthal. "While Purdue Pharma seems sincere in seeking to address the problems, no comprehensive effective solutions have been offered. Very bluntly, initiatives must move beyond cosmetic and symbolic steps to deal directly with alarming and growing diversion, abuse, fraud, robbery and other law breaking spawned by the present system of distribution."

In 2008, Blumenthal, in congressional testimony, demanded federal action on his petition to require stronger label warnings on OxyContin and urged stronger criminal sanctions to prevent future tragedy. More action needs to be taken at once.

Still Hurting

In 2011, the United States still requires the implementation of many things Blumenthal asked to be done. Since Purdue has established the RxSafetyMatters site, maybe the company should live up to their pledge and put significant money where it's most needed. According to Blumenthal, here are some of the fronts thirsting for immediate action:

1. Devoting resources to treatment and rehabilitation programs, particularly among population groups most affected. According to Blumenthal, the company has a "responsibility, legal and moral, to individuals who are addicted, whether they acquired the drug legitimately or illicitly;"

2. Distributing OxyContin through designated pharmacies to stem diversion and stop the spread of armed robberies of drug stores. The proposal, originally suggested by the Drug Enforcement Authority, would help identify individuals engaging in "doctor shopping" and allow better and more frequent surveillance to help deter robberies. This should not impede access for individuals who legitimately need the drug, so long as the dispensing pharmacies are wisely chosen;

3. Limiting the distribution of OxyContin only to physicians who have extensive experience or training in pain management, such as those physicians who regularly treat patients for chronic or severe pain. While OxyContin was initially prescribed to cancer patients, it is now made widely available for many other conditions involving pain;

4. Instituting a physician certification program whereby doctors are trained in the proper use of Oxycontin and its attendant dangers and benefits. Purdue Pharma could then require such certification prior to selling the pharmaceutical to any physician; and,

5. Adopting a plan that incorporates a multi-disciplinary approach to pain management, where Schedule II opioids such as OxyContin are the treatment of last resort for chronic pain, and requiring physicians to accept such a "contract."

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