OxyContin is a powerful, addictive painkiller. The history of OxyContin, compared to other opiate drugs such as heroin, is rather short. OxyContin was developed fewer than 30 years ago, in fact. As published by the FDA, this history of OxyContin is short, but not necessarily sweet.
OxyContin is a strong analgesic drug that contains highly addictive ingredients, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. OxyContin was approved by the government in 1995 and launched for use by Americans in 1996. The reasons for the approval were twofold. The belief at the time was that patients who needed chronic pain management weren’t being helped enough, and the opiate drugs being prescribed for chronic pain were being used for recreational purposes. OxyContin, as a time-released method of medication delivery, was intended to eliminate the recreational use by eliminating the euphoric effects.
Originally, the doses available for OxyContin were 10 mg, 20 mg and 40 mg. In 1996, an 80-mg tablet was approved, as well. During this time, clinical trials of the new medication were conducted for cancer and non-cancer patients. The original labels for OxyContin indicated that the pills should be swallowed whole and not bitten, chewed or crushed as this would eradicate the safeguards created for the time-release of the opiate ingredients.
In 2000, a 160-mg dose was approved. Both the 80-mg and 160-mg doses were used only for patients who had already developed a tolerance to opiates due to long-term pain management. These patients were warned that if someone else took their prescribed drugs, the results could be severe, medically speaking.
Also in 2000, a large marketing campaign focused on doctors who prescribe pain medication to their patients. The manufacturer of OxyContin promoted the use of this drug for the following uses:
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Pain after surgery
- As a “first line” of defense against any chronic pain
- For use in both cancer patients and non-cancer patients
The promotion and marketing included trade shows, medical journal and videos directed at doctors.
What Changes Have Been Made to OxyContin Recently?
Two significant differences are found in the newest formulation for OxyContin. The newer pills provide safeguards against tampering with the time-release properties because of crushing and snorting, or chewing the tablets. Another significant change is the inability to dissolve the powder that results from placing the tablets in water. Instead of liquefying, the substance turns into a thick, gummy property that is impossible to pull into a syringe, according to the FDA.
In that same year, reports began to emerge concerning abuse of OxyContin. In the report released by the FDA, it is put forth that the warning labels on the initial release of the drug may have contributed to the misuse and abuse. The labels effectively told drug abusers how to get around the time-release mechanisms and acted as an instruction manual for abuse. Other causes may have had to do with the intensive awareness and marketing campaigns.
By 2001, the FDA instituted changes in the labeling. OxyContin was no longer indicated for short-term pain management, but only for those patients who needed pain management 24 hours per day for an “extended” period of time. The new labeling highlighted this information and also indicated that the drugs were at high risk for abuse.
In 2002, an advisory committee established that the abuse of opioid pain medications was a public health problem.
The FDA released this report in 2008, when they established the need to reevaluate OxyContin. They looked at the many avenues to protect the public and influence the abuse of the drug, but their findings found that proposed changes to the labeling might actually increase the likelihood of abuse. A new formulation was developed in 2010 and is still in use today; however, even the FDA admits there has been little improvement.
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