The Oxy-Bomb in Canada

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It’s called the Oxy-bomb: the rise in popularity and addictions to Oxycontin®.

The active ingredient in “Oxy” is oxycodone – a powerful narcotic chemically related to morphine. It can be taken in the pill form as prescribed or ground up by addicts and either snorted or injected to get a more powerful high.

This became a particular concern in Canada because in the 15 years the pill was marketed, Canada became the second highest, world wide, in two categories: the number of people addicted to pain killers, and the second highest death rate from overdose.

New formulation: OxyNeo

Recently, the pill was been reformulated to make it harder to abuse. The new product is OxyNeo. The improvement touted for this new formulation is a time release system that is harder for addicts to defeat. Unfortunately, while Oxycontin was then removed from the market in Canada, it is still available in the US. Further, Canada has already seen at least one death using the new formulation.

It is rumored that addicts have already found ways to defeat the new time release formulation. Doing so allows them to get all of the dose contained in the tablet all at once – giving a stronger high, but also increasing the risk for overdose and death.

The parent company has been accused of marketing the Oxy-bomb knowing full well just how addictive the drug actually was, and modifying test results to conceal that defect from doctors. While there is no doubt that narcotics in all forms are addictive, physicians have to balance the risk and damage from addiction against benefits to the patient. When there is more than one product to choose from, most doctors will prescribe the less addictive version.

Candian manufacturer fined

Purdue, the company that manufactured Oxycontin for Canada, was already fined for misrepresenting how long the drug lasts in a false time release graph and had to pay $600 million.

The question is just how addictive substances should be marketed and what are the societal costs when a company leverages addiction into increased profits. One thing is clear though – manufacturers respond when they can’t sell their products. Many Canadian Provinces simply dropped the original product from their formularies. They refused to pay for it, and the product was changed. We’ll have to wait and see if the new pill is less of a “bomb” than the old.

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