With the ever rising cost of prescription medication in the United States, generic versions of popular drugs are often a lifeline to people who would have to otherwise go without. Oxycontin is one of the most popular and widely used painkillers in the world, and it is also one of the most addictive and controversial. What happens, however, when nationwide shortages in Oxycontin’s generic equivalent Oxycodone run out, and what happens when the generic equivalent gets pulled from the market all together? This is the nightmare scenario facing millions of drug users from coast to coast that can’t afford regular Oxycontin and are now faced with no legal alternative.
According to a Fox News article dated April 1, 2009, the Food and Drug Administration has decided to pull a series of “unapproved” narcotic painkillers and other drugs from the market, including Oxycodone. The FDA is attempting to stop the sales of drugs that never got legal FDA approval. Manufacturers of these drugs have 90 days to cease and desist before the government can raid their warehouses and labs. The government, in an attempt to prevent an all out panic, says that there are plenty of legal Oxycontin pills out there for people who need them, but they don’t say how cash-strapped patients are supposed to pay for the upgrade in cost.
The pinch is already being felt nationwide. Pharmacies from coast to coast have to turn away prescription holders in droves simply because they don’t have any more generic Oxycodone in stock. One pharmacy, located in Western Massachusetts, is working closely with doctors to move patients to other medications that are approved and available. Those that can afford the uptick in price are being switched to name brand OxyContin; others are simply trying to find an alternative. Things can get even more complicated if a patient is attempting to hide an addiction to the drug in question. Like any other addict, a person will do just about anything, including endangering their own health and the health of those around them, to get their next fix.
Generic Oxycontin has been in the news quite a lot over the last few years. The dangers and addiction problems that many have with Oxycontin are well documented; but even with all of the various news stories out there, addiction problems and careless prescribing of generic Oxycodone are still far too common, which really makes today’s medical professionals look bad.
One case that is getting a lot of attention is in Henderson, Nevada. A doctor is being sued for wrongful death after prescribing Oxycodone to several people who eventually died. The lawsuit claims that the use of narcotic painkillers like Oxycodone helped spur the death of eight people. Regardless of how this case resolves, it should serve as a cautionary tale to any doctor or pharmacist that just because a drug is generic doesn’t mean it is any less risky than the name brand.
What does the future hold for Oxycodone? It is clear that the overwhelming demand for this drug is sure to remain high, which means that street versions are bound to begin cropping up. Many people hope that the current shortage of Oxycodone is short lived as many drug companies are now racing to fill the gap left by the confiscation of other unlicensed versions of the drug. One pharmaceutical company, Sun Pharmaceuticals, is looking to cash in on the shortage by fast tracking their own version of the Oxycontin generic time release tablet. A new study released by the company outlines the windfall the company would gain by releasing their version of the drug sooner rather than later. You can bet that every other major pharmaceutical company is performing similar studies to analyze the cost/benefit ratio of pouring more research dollars into their own version of Oxycodone.
It is no secret that the United States has an unending thirst for drugs, whether they are street drugs or prescription drugs. When a drug takes the country by storm, as Oxycontin did, unlicensed and untested versions are bound to spring up. However, the role of the FDA cannot be subverted and proper testing of generic drugs is absolutely vital to maintaining a healthy populace.
By: Mindy Matter