HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html DEA Reproves Oxycontin Maker
Pubdate: Thu, 13 Dec 2001
Source: Sun News (SC)
Copyright: 2001 Sun Publishing Co.
Author: Nancy Zuckerbrod, The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Oxycontin)


WASHINGTON (AP) The company that makes OxyContin is partly to blame for
growing abuse of the prescription painkiller, says the head of the Drug
Enforcement Administration.

The DEA blames the drug for 117 deaths in 31 states in the past two years,
and the agency believes it is the likely cause in 179 other deaths,
including five overdose deaths in the Myrtle Beach area, DEA Administrator
Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday.

Earlier this week, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma L.P. defended its Myrtle
Beach-area sales representatives when federal officials said the
representatives failed to alert authorities after they received warnings
from pharmacists that Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Clinic in
Myrtle Beach might have been overprescribing the pain medication.

Federal officials pointed to a surge in sales of the drug in a territory
that included Myrtle Beach. James Heins, a company spokesman, said Monday
the company had no legal authority to interfere with the Myrtle Beach pain
management clinic or its physicians. Heins further said a surge in sales
does not indicate abuse.

Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Clinic closed in June after the DEA
suspended the narcotics licenses of six doctors who worked there. The
doctors deny any wrongdoing and will appeal the suspensions at hearings
expected to take place beginning in January.

Hutchinson told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the drug maker's
"aggressive marketing practices" have made the drug more readily available.
The number of OxyContin prescriptions has grown and reached 5.8 million

Hutchinson said Purdue Pharma gave its sales representatives incentives to
sell large quantities of the drug and said the company took doctors on
expense-paid retreats to encourage them to prescribe it.

Purdue Pharma Executive Vice President Paul Goldenheim rejected claims its
marketing has been improper. "That is simply not the case," he said.

Goldenheim said the company spends significant time educating doctors about
proper use of the drug.

He noted that the company worked with the Food and Drug Administration to
strengthen warnings on OxyContin package inserts and helped law enforcement
officials develop placebo tablets used in sting operations.

OxyContin is a slow-release narcotic painkiller. It is widely prescribed for
victims of moderate to severe chronic pain resulting from such problems as
arthritis, back trouble and cancer.

One pill is designed to last 12 hours, but those who abuse OxyContin usually
crush the medicine and then snort or inject it, producing a quick, heroin
like high.

Hutchinson said the problem was most severe in Eastern and Southern states,
but is spreading elsewhere. "I do not believe we've reached the peak of this
problem yet," he said.

Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary
Appropriations Subcommittee, said he would ask congressional auditors to
investigate Purdue Pharma's marketing practices. Wolf, R-Va., said he
doesn't want to ban the drug, but believes it can be more closely regulated.
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