HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html DEA Joins Oxy Coalition
Pubdate: Wed, 24 Oct 2001
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Cincinnati Enquirer
Author: Susan Vela


The federal agency best known for slowing the flow of drugs has signed on 
to a coalition to make sure a powerful painkiller gets only into the right 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday announced it is joining 
a coalition of 21 pain and health organizations calling for more awareness 
and education about OxyContin, a legal pain medication that, in the past 
year, has prompted arrests, illegal peddling and deadly addictions.

"The DEA policies are not at odds with legal pain treatment. We are all at 
this table on one side. We're making sure there's adequate pain medication. 
We're also on the same side of responsibility whenever it comes to avoiding 
the abuse of pain medication," said Asa Hutchinson, the agency's chief 
administrator, speaking before pharmacists, physicians and journalists at 
the National Press Club.

In Kentucky, where cancer rates and work-related accident injury rates are 
among the highest in the nation, the drug is widely needed and widely abused.

Mr. Hutchinson said he has received letters describing "chronic intractable 
pain" from people who rely on pain medication such as OxyContin.

But, he said, 50 to 90 percent of new patients in treatment programs in 
Kentucky report that OxyContin is their primary addiction.

"Education always helps law enforcement. We're all acknowledging that we 
all have to do a better job in terms of education. (But) we're not going to 
slack off. We will do our job."

Last Acts, an organization that works to improve end-of-life care, 
sponsored the event.

"Pain is a very serious problem in the United States, as is drug abuse. We 
share a responsibility," said Karen Kaplan, moderator and Last Acts' 
program director. About 60 million people across the nation suffer from 
chronic pain, many of them in the final stages of terminal cancer. 
OxyContin was approved by the FDA in 1996. This year, media reports of 
abuse began surfacing in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.

In February, federal law enforcement officials arrested 200 people in 
eastern Kentucky. It was the state's largest drug bust ever.

"There is an epidemic of chronic pain in the U.S. (But) we have to 
recognize that (pain medications) are not a panacea," said Dr. Russell K. 
Portenoy at the Last Acts event.

The stigma that has become attached to OxyContin has some pharmacists 
fearful of distributing it for legal reasons and fearful of stocking it for 
security reasons. These fears have become another way the medication has 
become difficult for pain patients to obtain.
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