When OxyContin was first introduced in 1996, it was hailed as a breakthrough treatment for severe chronic pain. OxyContin, a time-released version of oxycodone, was intended to be swallowed whole. The painkiller would then be gradually released over a 12-hour period, giving sufferers consistent and steady relief. Unfortunately, drug abusers quickly discovered that they could crush the tablets and snort or inject them. The result was a heroine-like high. The abuse of OxyContin grew rapidly, as did the deaths from overdoses.
Recognizing the importance of providing effective medication for chronic pain sufferers but concerned about the abuse, the FDA urged drug manufacturers to develop more abuse-resistant versions of powerful painkillers. Purdue Pharma responded and the FDA is now evaluating a new form of OxyContin that was designed to be harder to abuse.
The new OxyContin tablet has a plastic-like coating fused to it that causes it to break into large fragments rather than powder when abusers attempt to mash it. If they attempt to dissolve it, the coating turns the tablet into “a gelatinous mess” that cannot be injected.
This week the FDA is considering whether the new version of OxyContin is sufficiently tamper-resistant to allow it on the market before the required long-term studies are done to determine if it actually reduces abuse. Hopefully, if these reformulated drugs prove to reduce abuse, doctors will be more comfortable prescribing them for chronic pain patients who truly need them.
Published On: May 05, 2008