July 9, 2001 - Heroin in a Prescription? - Painkiller OxyContin Has Pharmacies on Alert
Law enforcement units and politicians are struggling to resolve the problem of a frequent theft of a narcotic called OxyContin (oxycodone hydrochloride) from various pharmacies in Delaware and Massachusetts. Police patrols around pharmacies have increased but this does not seem to deter criminals who continue to rob pharmacies that carry OxyContin, one of the most popular controlled substances among the recreational drug users. Just in the last few months, OxyContin was stolen from as many as a dozen pharmacies in the Boston area. As a result of these armed robberies, Shaw's supermarkets in Boston decided to discontinue carrying the drug, thus making it unavailable to patients suffering severe pain and diagnosed with terminal illnesses like cancer and AIDS. In addition, there has been a strong movement among the drug's critics to make it even harder to obtain by regulating physicians' freedom to prescribe it. In support of their anti-OxyContin position, the objectors argue that the drug is a growing problem that according to the Delaware District Attorney's office has already caused at least 23 deaths in the county alone.
Because OxyContin can be prescribed in different doses, the Drug Enforcement Agency has asked Purdue Pharma, the drug's manufacturer, to change OxyContin's molecular formula to make it less desirable to drug abusers. However, the company stands behind its product and blames those who misuse the drug. According to Dr. David Haddox, Purdue Pharma's medical director, "When drug abusers determine the medical care for the rest of us that is a travesty."
Purdue does not plan to make any major policy changes in distributing OxyContin and American pharmacies will continue to be a target.
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