HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Chafin Backing Down on Proposed Drug Ban
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Feb 2002
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2002 Charleston Daily Mail
Author: Therese Smith Cox, Daily Mail Health Reporter
Bookmark: (Oxycontin)


As the maker of the painkiller Oxycontin kicks off a national advertising 
campaign today, the state senator who this week introduced a bill to ban 
the drug's main ingredient says he may either schedule a public hearing or 
make his bill a study resolution instead.

Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin said he now believes there is some 
benefit to the use of oxycodone in certain clinical, in-hospital situations.

"In a proper setting such as CAMC or Ruby (Memorial Hospital in Morgantown) 
when a person is dying or in the last stages of life, I understand this 
drug is the drug of choice, that it serves a lot of benefit," Chafin said 
today. "But the long lines of patients who go to Acosta's for the drug is 
not proper."

Dr. Armando Acosta of Williamson pleaded guilty earlier this month to 
prescribing Oxycontin to a woman who didn't need it.

Chafin's bill would make oxycodone a Schedule I drug under the Uniform 
Controlled Substances Act. That includes drugs with a high potential for 
abuse and no currently accepted medical use. It then would not be available 
in any form to West Virginia patients.

He had said the drug is costing the state millions of dollars and is 
destroying lives.

OxyContin is the nation's top-selling narcotic painkiller. It generates 
more than $1 billion in annual sales. One time-release pill is designed to 
last 12 hours.

But those who abuse the drug crush it, then snort or inject it, producing a 
quick, heroin-like high. Federal officials blame OxyContin and similar 
drugs for hundreds of deaths nationwide over the past two years.

That's why the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma kicked off an effort 
today to highlight its efforts to combat abuse of OxyContin. The ads, in 
both the Daily Mail and the Gazette, highlight Purdue's effort to develop 
new abuse-resistant medicines, distribute free tamper-resistant 
prescription pads and educate teens on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Dr. Justin Cohen, a Charleston cancer doctor, said oxycodone is a great 
drug that is very valuable in treating cancer pain.

"For many patients, oxycodone is less sedating than other drugs," Cohen 
said. "For some, it is less constipating. That's important for an immobile 
patient in pain and prone to discomfort."

Further, the painkiller's dose can be increased when needed, without 
serious side effects.

"There is a certain degree of security in knowing you eventually find a 
dose that works for them," he said. "It fills a niche. If we got rid of it, 
you'd be stuck. A lot of patients would suffer."

Dr. Paula Taylor agrees.

Both a pharmacist and a physician who works with dying patients, Taylor 
said many don't do well with other opiates.

"If Truman Chafin is successful, it could be a huge loss," she said.

Oxycodone is used in several drugs critical in treating pain after back 
surgery, with cancer patients and with women after they give birth via 
Caesarean section. Some of the other preparations with the ingredient are 
Tylox, Percocet and Percodan.

The executive director of the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy also said 
that banning oxycodone is not the answer to an epidemic of abuse.

"No one can deny that abuse and illegitimate use of narcotic medications is 
a serious problem that needs an appropriate solution," William Douglass 
Jr., also legal counsel for the pharmacy board, said in a prepared statement.

"To prevent terminally ill patients who are in need of legitimate pain 
management from obtaining a drug that effectively relieves their pain is 
not the answer."

Instead, Douglass said House Bill 4419 sponsored by two pharmacist 
legislators would establish a controlled substance monitoring program and 
make doctor shopping a criminal offense. The measure would help reduce the 
abuse of oxycodone products but would allow the legitimate use for 
debilitating pain, Douglass said.

The new Purdue Pharma ads never mention OxyContin. Instead, they say 4 
million Americans each month abuse a variety of prescription drugs, 
including pain medications, weight-loss pills and antidepressants.

"And Purdue Pharma is doing something about it," the ad says.

The ads build on another radio campaign begun in November in West Virginia, 
Florida, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, discouraging illegal use of 
prescription drugs.

Taylor, who also is a pediatrician, said the state would benefit far more 
if the Legislature banned tobacco. And Cohen said banning a useful drug 
should come from lawmakers.

"We have a state legislature with very little understanding of medical 
issues and have intervened," Cohen said.
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