Protesters Deliver Outgoing FDA Commissioner an 800lb “Heroin Spoon”

Protestors descended on the FDA today to mark the end of Scott Gottlieb's tenure with the delivery of a large “heroin spoon” sculpture stamped with the FDA’s logo. Activists say they are angry that the outgoing commissioner rubber-stamped Dsuvia, an incredibly powerful opioid that is meant for surgeries and late-term terminal cancer. The group of activists urged the FDA to stop approving “dangerous” opioids and to focus on more ideas for medication-assisted treatment and other drugs to help treat addiction. Dsuvia is a sublingual formulation of sufentanil, which is 500 times as powerful as morphine. The drugmaker says that the drug was created for the management of acute pain in adults in medically supervised healthcare settings. Activists and addiction specialist believe that the drug will eventually make it onto the street, causing overdose deaths, just like fentanyl. Fentanyl was developed mostly for surgical settings but after a few years began to be prescribed off-label for chronic pain, causing addiction or dependence in its patients. AcelRx Pharmaceuticals, says that the…

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Is OxyContin Still King?

There are growing signs around the country that the abuse of OxyContin is diminishing. The drug is being bypassed during pharmacy robberies in favor of Opana, methadone and other narcotic drugs, and some hospital emergency rooms are reporting a decrease in OxyContin overdoses. According to Forbes, the Journal of Pain and other publications, the introduction of a new tamper-resistant form of OxyContin in 2010 seems to be responsible for a decrease in abuse of the drug. Drug addicts previously crushed OxyContin pills to circumvent the drugs time-release mechanism and experience the full impact of the drug in one rush. Instead of allowing drug abusers to crush the pill for snorting or injection, the new OxyContin turns into a gummy mush when tampered with. Unfortunately, the reformulation of OxyContin does not appear to be leading to an overall drop in drug abuse. In the past decade, OxyContin became so popular as a drug of abuse in rural communities that it was nicknamed "hillbilly heroin." This nickname has unfortunately proved to…

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Mayor Bloomberg Limits Painkiller Use in NY Hospitals

In response to a citywide and national epidemic of prescription drug abuse, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has instituted a policy in New York City that will restrict the use of prescription painkillers in the city's public hospitals. The policy, which will affect the distribution of prescription drugs from hospital emergency rooms, could set a model for hospitals across the nation. Under Bloomberg's new policy, emergency room patients will only be given three days worth of narcotic drugs like Percocet and Vicodin. Oxycontin, which has been shown to be one of the most addictive painkillers, will not be distributed at all from 11 public emergency rooms. This is also true of methadone and Fentanyl patches. Emergency rooms also will not fill painkiller prescriptions that are reported to have been stolen, lost or destroyed. One of the goals of the new policy is to reduce the amount of drugs that end up in medicine cabinets and diverted for sale on the street. When he announced the new policy, Mayor Bloomberg said that…

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OxyContin Without Safety Features could Return to Pharmacies

A national organization that fights prescription drug abuse is sounding the alarm about the possibility of pain pills without safety features being released to pharmacies across the nation. The nonprofit Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence (CLAAD) is urging the FDA to prevent the return of crushable versions of OxyContin and Opana. Under government pressure, the makers of these powerful opioid drugs reformulated their products to prevent abuse. The new versions of the drugs are resistant to crushing, making it impossible to smoke, snort or inject the drugs in order to circumvent their time-release formula. Studies have shown that prescription drug abusers and dealers are less interested in the new versions of the drugs because of their tamper-resistant features. The Generics Might Not Be Safeguarded Despite evidence that reformulation of painkillers has reduced abuse, several drug companies have requested FDA approval for generic versions of these drugs. The generic pills, which would have no abuse-deterrent features, could be released to pharmacies early in 2013. CLAAD recently sent a…

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Drug Ring Salvages OxyContin and Vicodin Pills from Medical Waste Company

The demand for narcotic prescription drugs is so high that drug dealers will go to almost any length to get their hands on drugs to sell. A San Diego drug ring took this to an extreme by intercepting thousands of pills that were slated to be destroyed and selling them on the black market.   Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested John Bonavita and two employees of Enserv West LLC, a medical waste disposal firm. The employees diverted pills that were slated to be destroyed to Bonavita, who sold them to other dealers. As part of a plea agreement, Bonavita admitted to purchasing and reselling 13,000 hydrocodone tablets (a pain medication that's sold under the brand name Vicodin), 900 oxycodone tablets (another painkiller sold under the name OxyContin), 111 methadone tablets and 350 morphine tablets.   The drug ring operated from 2009 to 2010. DEA investigators learned about the group when an informant who had purchased thousands of prescription pills from Bonavita began working with authorities in…

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Opana Overtaking OxyContin as Most Abused Painkiller

Fort Wayne, Indiana, a medium-sized city of 200,000, has experienced more than a dozen pharmacy robberies since the beginning of 2012. In almost every case, the robbers were after a powerful prescription painkiller named Opana. Less well-known than OxyContin, Opana is the brand name for oxymorphone. Like OxyContin, Opana is an opiate medication that carries a high risk of abuse, dependency and overdose. Unlike OxyContin, Opana is still available in an extended-release formula that appeals to abusers who are seeking a more intense high. According to drug enforcement experts, the rising popularity of Opana can be attributed to a change made to OxyContin that makes pills harder to crush for snorting or dissolve for injecting. Individuals who are addicted to prescription drugs have a tendency to adapt according the drug availability and many are now turning to Opana to feed their addiction. States that are known for prescription drug abuse, including Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York as well as Indiana, are seeing a growth in Opana abuse. Last…

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Who Should Pay for Prescription Drug Disposal?

Government drug experts have found that many teenagers and adults who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from people they know with prescriptions or steal them from the medicine cabinets of family and friends. Starting in 2010, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has held a series of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days to encourage Americans to safely dispose of unused and unwanted prescription medications. More than 5600 take-back sites have been established, covering all 50 states. The Take-Back program has removed a total of 775 tons of medication from circulation, avoiding the chances of diversion and abuse.   The National Prescription Drug Take-Back program has been so effective that some local jurisdictions have established their own drug drop-off programs. In Alameda County in Northern California, 28 publicly-funded drop locations are available year round for residents to dispose of prescription drugs. Besides keeping prescription drugs out of the hands of people who may abuse them, drug disposal programs like the one in Alameda County protect the environment by keeping drugs out…

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