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OxyContin: the Worst Lethal Scandal in American MedicineDr. Phil Leveque Salem-News.com
ZoHydro is soon to join OxyContin.
(MOLALLA, Ore.) - The basis for this article is another excellent article titled: "Painful Medicine" in Fortune magazine. 21 November 2011 by Katherine Ebam, who also wrote in a previous edition, "Dangerous Doses", and others about OxyContin. I looked up a bit of her professional biography and I am impressed that she did such an excellent job on such a pharmacological/medical technical subject which would be difficult even for most pharmacologists.
Her historical research about the pharmaceutical industry was excellent, but with a few important omissions, which she had no means of discovering. She does have difficulty with the terms opiate and opioid, as do most people. So as a Professor of Pharmacology, I will try with the aid of Wikipedia, to clarify the terms.
Opiates are direct derivatives of opium as such, and are morphine, codeine, thebaine, and papaverine. The latter is not a painkiller, so let's let it drop there. Thebaine is a toxic member of this group, but it may be converted to Oxycodone. So, Oxycodone and OxyContin, are also opiates. Here is where the subject gets cloudy. Some people consider drugs like hydromorphone, and hydrocodone, to be opioids, but they also are opiates.
To quote Wikipedia: "Opiate is referred to only the alkaloids in opium and the natural and semi-synthetic derivatives of opium. The term is often incorrectly used to refer to all drugs with opium or morphine-like pharmacological action, which are more properly classified as opioids". To clarify this further, non-opium derived strong narcotics, analgesics, such as Methadone, Demerol, Fentanyl and some others act like opiates but are totally different structures.
OxyContin, which is Oxycodone in continuous, long-term action form, is the number-one pain killer in the world, with sales of at least 3.1 Billion in 2010- far outselling all the rest of the strong painkillers combined. It is also the most lethal, killing thousands per year. This group of drugs kills about 15,000 persons per year. The manufacturer of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, started with an advertising tsunami for the drug, which convincingly told doctors that it was safe because it was long acting rather than short, but it still killed thousands, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fined Purdue Pharma $635 million, which came out of petty cash and didn't slow them down. They are still making billions.
The history of OxyContin and Purdue Pharma is very interesting. It started with Dilaudid, which might be considered a double morphine compound. It is about double the potency of morphine but used much less.
Three brothers, Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler, were trained and worked as psychiatrists, in Queens, New York. They pioneered research in the biology of psychiatric illnesses.
In 1952, the brothers bought Purdue Fredrick, whose main product was Dilaudid, which causes constipation. They also sold laxatives to combat this adverse side effect. The oldest brother, Arthur, joined an advertising company specializing in marketing pharmaceuticals. He helped Valium to become the most-used drug for about ten years, where it was found to be highly addictive.
Arthur reverted to a drug plan long used in Europe, "Produce a good drug which mas minor adverse effects, requiring a second prescription to counteract the adverse effect of the first." They found this first in M S Contin, continuous acting morphine sulphate (MS), and then found Oxycodone, derived from the opiate Thebaine. OxyContin had a very useful side effect, ADDICTION, which required more OxyContin. With good advertising, they were "off to the races". The first year they sold $45 million dollars worth, one point five billion in 2002 and $3.1 billion in 2010.
The increasing deaths bought the attention of the FDA and the DEA and the company is embroiled in lawsuits like crazy. But they are still selling billions of dollars worth per year. It is expected they will sell $15.3 dollars worth by 2016.
Miss Katherine Ebam did a tremendous educational job for her article, but Purdue Pharma probably considers it free advertising.
Remember folks, OxyContin may be lethal!
Our writer Marianne Skolek follows this beat regularly, and for all of her reports in chronological order, please visit this link
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More information on the history of Dr. Leveque can be found in his book, General Patton's Dogface Soldier of WWII about his own experiences "from a foxhole".
If you are a World War II history buff, you don't want to miss it.
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