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Oct-10-2010 19:26printcomments

Purdue Pharma and California and Oklahoma Epidemic of OxyContin

“I kept seeing over and over and over people in their 20's addicted to OxyContin” - Dr. Charles Shaw, addiction specialist physician in Oklahoma City,

Oxycontin help

(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) - California recently reported they have an OxyContin epidemic among young people. They are calling it "a silent, growing problem" -- and Oklahoma is right behind them! Why is OxyContin being manufactured in such great volume?

California emergency room visits for abuse of oxycodone (OxyContin) rose 152 percent in the period 2004 to 2008, with an even steeper increase among people younger than 21, according to a study released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The rise in abuse of OxyContin, in particular, may be contributing to a resurgence of heroin use among youths statewide, said one California drug enforcement agent. "That's a natural segue," said Kent Shaw, assistant chief for the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. Shaw calls youth abuse of OxyContin and other prescription drugs "a silent, growing problem."

At New Leaf Treatment Center in Lafayette, California about 50 patients are under treatment for OxyContin addiction at a given time, said Gantt Galloway, a doctor of pharmacology. Galloway describes an euphoric effect. "There's also relaxation that takes away anxiety, and it's a sleepy, relaxed sort of high," he said.

"What you run into is, kids see other kids who have just started using it. They're not having a problem yet. They're still in high school or college. They haven't dropped out yet," he said. "I think that sort of fuels the ease of using it, because you don't see people around who are having horrendous consequences."

"To see some little, physically small, relatively immature 16-year-old come in here with a full blown habit — it's bracing."

Efforts to attack have centered largely on supply — shining a light on "pill-mill" doctors, and on stopping addicts from shopping around for several doctors' prescriptions at once.

"The parent advocates are pushing for expanded funding of the statewide prescription pill database, which provides real-time access to prescription information for doctors and pharmacists who sign up to access the system. Far wider use of the system would help doctors and pharmacists identify abusers and limit their access, while helping law enforcement track high-volume doctors," Shaw said.

But recent legislation by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, to have drugmakers fund about $5 million a year for the program failed to make it out of committee. DeSaulnier said drug companies have balked at the cost, but that he hopes to persuade them.

"It's an epidemic. If they're not part of the solution, I think it's worse for them in the long run," he said.

A spokeswoman for Purdue Pharma LP, the maker of OxyContin, said in an e-mail that the company opposed the bill but supports "appropriately designed" prescription monitoring programs. She did not elaborate. Why the reference to "spokeswoman" without a name or title from Purdue Pharma. Curious, isn't it? I'm sure they oppose any bill that would affect the profits they make off OxyContin. Maybe Senator DeSaulnier should look into the production numbers relative to the manufacture of OxyContin. He might be quite surprised to find his answer as to why his state has an OxyContin epidemic.

Moving on to Oklahoma -- thousands of Oklahomans -- many of them young people -- have fallen victim to oxycodone and OxyContin addiction, and thousands more to hydrocodone painkillers like Lortab and Vicodin.

Hydrocodone, sold under brand names such as Lortab and Vicodin, and the stronger oxycodone, most popular as OxyContin and Percocet, are devastating the younger population of Oklahoma, says the state Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The opioid painkiller epidemic is leading to a critical overload for facilities offering hydrocodone and OxyContin detox.

To get an idea of how much hydrocodone and oxycodone is used in the state, the bureau’s spokesman Mark Woodward points out that the state’s prescription monitoring database shows 111 million doses of hydrocodone are prescribed every month in Oklahoma, enough for one dose every day for every person in the state.

Oklahoma consumes as much hydrocodone as the entire state of California, which has 10 times the population, and oxycodone, the active narcotic in OxyContin, is not far behind.

“That’s crazy,” Woodward told the Oklahoman. “We’ve seen huge increases in the last 10 years, just the amounts of them being filled.”

Dr. Charles Shaw, an addiction specialist physician in Oklahoma City, said he considers the current use and abuse of prescription painkillers an epidemic. He says pharmaceutical companies market them aggressively, government drug agencies “have dropped the ball” in controlling their use, and physicians who prescribe them get almost no training with addiction.

“I kept seeing over and over and over people in their 20's addicted to OxyContin,” Dr. Shaw told the Oklahoman. “Once they took it, they could never get off of it.” OC, or oxy as it’s known on the street, is the only opiate that can be swallowed, snorted or injected, Dr. Shaw said. “It’s just like heroin in pill form. It is worse than heroin.”

So who do the residents of Oklahoma turn to in fighting this battle of OxyContin in their state? I can tell you who they cannot turn to -- Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn defended Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, when he served on the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate in July 2007 at the hearing held after Purdue Pharma was criminally convicted in Federal Court of misleading physicians and patients about OxyContin. I testified against Purdue Pharma at that same hearing. When the hearing ended, I had the opportunity to tell Senator Coburn that he should be ashamed of himself for defending a company convicted of such a heinous crime. I also reminded him that the people of Oklahoma deserved better from him. Senator Coburn did not feel it necessary to respond to me -- maybe the voters of Oklahoma will respond appropriately to his indifference to the OxyContin addiction and abuse epidemic created by the company Senator Coburn defends.

From the pharmaceutical company convicted of misleading physicians and patients as to the addictive and abusive qualities of OxyContin -

"Prescription drug abuse is a serious public health concern and Purdue is taking an active role in being a part of the solution to the problem," Libby Holman is quoted as saying. (Holman is often referred to by Purdue Pharma as "spokeswoman" -- although Linkedin lists her title at Purdue Pharma as Associate Director of Public Affairs since April 2009)

James W. Heins is listed on the Purdue Pharma website as Senior Director of Public Affairs -- not as "spokesman"

Libby Holman is not listed on the Purdue Pharma website.

My guess is that Ms. Holman being referred to as a "spokeswoman" without a title referenced will make her very expendable to Purdue Pharma. Now may not be a good time for her to anticipate becoming vested in Purdue Pharma's pension plan -- ask the tobacco industry about their use of the word "spokeswoman" Ms. Holman -- before you keep drinking the Purdue Pharma Kool-Aid.

Salem-News.com Reporter Marianne Skolek, is an Activist for Victims of OxyContin throughout the United States and Canada. In July 2007, she testified against Purdue Pharma in Federal Court in Virginia at the sentencing of their three CEO's who pled guilty to charges of marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused to physicians and patients. She also testified against Purdue Pharma at a Judiciary Hearing of the U.S. Senate in July 2007. Marianne works with government agencies and private attorneys in having a voice for her daughter Jill, who died in 2002 after being prescribed OxyContin, as well as the voice for scores of victims of OxyContin. She has been involved in her work for the past 7-1/2 years and is currently working on a book that exposes Purdue Pharma for their continued criminal marketing of OxyContin.

Marianne is a nurse having graduated in 1991 as president of her graduating class. She also has a Paralegal certification. Marianne served on a Community Service Board for the Courier News, a Gannet newspaper in NJ writing articles predominantly regarding AIDS patients and their emotional issues. She was awarded a Community Service Award in 1993 by the Hunterdon County, NJ HIV/AIDS Task Force in recognition of and appreciation for the donated time, energy and love in facilitating a Support Group for persons with HIV/AIDS.

You can send Marianne an email at: mskolek@aol.com

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