Pubdate: Tue, 21 Aug 2007
Source: Quad-City Times (IA)
Section: Pg A-1, above the fold
Copyright: 2007 Quad-City Times
Author: Frank Bass
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


Q-C Area Lags Nation In Rate Of Increased Usage

People in the United States are living in a world of pain and they 
are popping pills at an alarming rate to cope with it.

The amount of five major painkillers sold at retail establishments 
rose 90 percent between 1997 and 2005, according to an Associated 
Press analysis of statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

More than 200,000 pounds of codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone 
and meperidine were purchased at retail stores during the most recent 
year represented in the data.  That total is enough to give more than 
300 milligrams of painkillers to every person in the country.

Oxycodone, the chemical used in OxyContin, is responsible for most of 
the increase.  Oxycodone use jumped nearly six-fold between 1997 and 
2005.  The drug gained notoriety as "hillbilly heroin," often bought 
and sold illegally in Appalachia. But its highest rates of sale now 
occur in places such as suburban St. Louis, Columbus, Ohio, and Fort 
Lauderdale, Fla.

Local Impact

Overall, Illinois had among the lowest percentage increases in 
painkiller use -- a 45 percent climb from 1997 to 2005 or roughly 
half the national average.

However, Illinois' rate for oxycodone use was much higher -- 828 
percent versus 591 percent for the national average.

Also, contrary to the national trend, meperidine use climbed in 
pockets of southern and central Illinois, and codeine use skyrocketed 
in Chicago's northwest suburbs.  Rising use of the other drugs in 
Illinois generally followed national trends, and southern Illinois 
experienced some of the largest percentage increases.

Mercer, Henry and Rock Island Counties had among the lowest 
percentage increases in painkiller use in Illinois.  Oxycodone use, 
for example, was only up 451.6 percent, compared to 828 percent for 
the entire state.  And meperidine use actually declined 72.9 percent 
in those counties, while codeine use was down 39.4 percent.

Iowa, meanwhile, had a 62 percent increase in painkiller use from 
1997 to 2005.  Counties in southern Iowa, as well as those closest to 
Des Moines, had the highest increases.

Jackson, Muscatine, Clinton and Scott Counties were all below the 
national average in the rate of oxycodone use, but all of them saw an 
increase of more than 250 percent between 1997 and 2005.

Why The Increase?

An AP investigation found these reasons for the increase:

- -- The population is getting older:  As age increases, so does the 
need for pain medications.  By 2020, the Census Bureau estimates the 
number of elderly in the U.S. will reach 54 million.

- -- Drugmakers have embarked on unprecedented marketing campaigns. 
Spending on drug marketing has gone from $11 billion in 1997 to 
nearly $30 billion in 2005, congressional investigators found.

- -- A major change in pain management philosophy is now in its third 
decade.  Doctors who once advised patients that pain is part of the 
healing process began reversing course in the early 1980s; most now 
see pain management as an important ingredient in overcoming illness.

The Consequences

- -- More people are abusing prescription painkillers because the 
medications are more available.

- -- Spooked by high-profile arrests and prosecutions by state and 
federal authorities, many pain-management specialists now say they 
offer guidance and support to patients but will not write 
prescriptions, even for the sickest people.

- -- People who desperately need strong painkillers are forced to drive 
a long way -- often to a different state -- to find doctors willing 
to prescribe high doses of medicine.

Addictions And Prosecutions Rising

When radio commentator Rush Limbaugh settled a federal case charging 
him with illegally obtaining painkillers, he did not get prison time. 
Neither did NFL star Brett Favre, who publicly acknowledged an 
addiction to Vicodin that he obtained legally.

Pain management specialists say they are being blamed for everyone's addiction.

The DEA cites 108 prosecutions of physicians during the past four 
years; 83 pleaded guilty or no contest, while 16 others were 
convicted by juries.  Eight cases are pending, and one physician is 
being sought as a fugitive.

In congressional testimony, the agency's deputy assistant 
administrator, Joseph T. Rannazzisi, estimated that fewer than 1 
percent of the nation's physicians illegally provide prescription 
drugs to patients.  He told lawmakers it is far more common for 
people to illegally obtain prescription drugs from friends and family members.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman