HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Shipment of Potent Pain Pills Suspended
Pubdate: Sat, 12 May 2001
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company
Author: Josh White, Washington Post Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Oxycontin)


Company Interrupts Sales Of Strongest Dosage of OxyContin Because Of Abuse

The company that makes OxyContin announced yesterday that it is suspending 
shipments of the most potent form of the prescription painkiller because of 
growing concern about lethal abuse of the drug.

Officials at Purdue Pharma LP, of Stamford, Conn., said the company won't 
sell the 160-milligram OxyContin pills while it works to prevent widespread 
abuse, especially in Appalachia. The 160-milligram pills -- which hit the 
market less than a year ago -- are much more dangerous than the more common 
80-milligram, 40-milligram and 20-milligram pills, and doctors said that 
they could easily kill a first-time user.

"Abuse of such a high dose can certainly have some serious and dangerous 
health consequences to the abuser," said Purdue spokesman James W. Heins. 
"We think this action is the responsible thing to do."

The move comes just days before a scheduled meeting of the National 
Association of Attorneys General, at which officials are expected to 
discuss ways of controlling prescription drug abuse, especially abuse of 

A statewide Virginia task force -- assembled by Attorney General Mark L. 
Earley (R) -- also is scheduled to meet next week specifically about the 

"Obviously, Purdue has realized what the attorney general and people of 
Southwest Virginia have known for months: OxyContin kills when it is used 
illegally," said David Botkins, Earley's spokesman.

OxyContin, a pain remedy approved by the Food and Drug Administration, was 
prescribed 6 million times last year. The painkiller recently has come 
under intense scrutiny because of its widely documented abuse. Medical 
officials in Southwest Virginia have blamed abuse of the drug for 39 deaths 
in the past three years, and local and federal authorities say its abuse 
has spread throughout the Washington region.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has asked Purdue to consider 
limiting how it distributes and markets OxyContin as part of the DEA's 
first national action plan for a prescription medication. DEA officials 
said yesterday that pulling the 160-milligram pills will do little to 
address the growing problem, largely because the high-dose tablets account 
for about 1 percent of OxyContin sales and rarely have been seen on the 

Tazewell County, Va., officials found 160-milligram pills in the 
underground market for the first time two weeks ago, when they seized 
almost 400.

In a raid on April 24, Tazewell investigators found almost $100,000 worth 
of OxyContin pills of various strengths in a mobile home in Mill Creek.

"It really shocked us," said Tazewell Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis H. 
Lee. "I can't even imagine the damage those pills could do."
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