May 15, 2007
Commentary in the Wall Street Journal -- Oxy Morons, by Sally Satel. Here's an excerpt:
It is a bad time to be in pain. Last week, the maker of OxyContin, a high-strength narcotic analgesic, agreed to pay $635 million to settle charges of "misbranding" brought by the attorney general of West Virginia.
"Scores died as a result of OxyContin abuse and an even greater number of people became addicted," said Attorney General John Brownlee. The drug company, Purdue Frederick, admits that its sales force underplayed the abuse potential of OxyContin. And, yes, the company should have acted more quickly to clamp down on overpromotion and to issue strong warnings in the face of overdose deaths.
But the real public-health damage here comes from the pitched campaign conducted by zealous prosecutors and public-interest advocates to demonize the drug itself. This is tragic because OxyContin has been a godsend for millions of patients with searing, unremitting pain from chronic back problems, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological disorders and other dire afflictions.
This latest bad rap for OxyContin threatens to inflict more pain. Doctors already wary of scrutiny by the Drug Enforcement Administration will become even more skittish about giving adequate doses of OxyContin or prescribing it at all. And patients will be rightly scared of losing access to the medication that made their lives livable again.
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