Regulating OxyContin

The following editorial appeared in the The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on Dec. 2:

When federal officials consider new regulations regarding prescription drugs, one wonders whether they take even a cursory look at how those laws might affect those living in the real world. It is no secret to anyone living in a state affected by the hideous plague of opiate abuse that OxyContin is a problem.

Greed and ignorance led to poor prescribing practices and pill mills that have brought great swaths of Appalachia and the Midwest to their knees. OxyContin and other opiates (be on the lookout for the next wave – buprenorphine, or Suboxone) led to heroin. No state has yet been able to find a solution.

Meanwhile, the federal Food and Drug Administration, in all its wisdom, approved OxyContin for prescription to those ages 11-16. It did so on the advice of manufacturer Purdue Pharma, which says it conducted a study that indicated medication of children with OxyContin is no problem.

States such as Ohio have been forced to spend valuable resources fighting against the consequences of such decisions. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has resorted to reminding doctors it is all right to tell patients seeking opiates “no.” The Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System will give doctors and pharmacists a clearer picture of which patients should receive that “no.”

And, still, opiate prescriptions — and abuse — are increasing in places such as Washington County, where the Board of Pharmacy says the rate of opiate prescription went up 0.68 percent last year.

As one pediatrician explained to a national news outlet, “there is ample evidence of many powerful medications with significant side effects being prescribed carelessly by providers, including stimulants for ADHD or antipsychotics for behavior disorders. Those who would prescribe OxyContin must do so with due caution and awareness for its potential for abuse, addiction, and diversion.”

Does the federal government really believe that, when there is money to be made, some unscrupulous prescribers will not throw caution to the wind? Probably not. But that is Ohio’s — or West Virginia’s, or Kentucky’s — problem, not theirs.


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