Throughout the last years, the United States has been facing an opioid overdose epidemic, affecting the pharmaceutical market and especially the patients’ health.

A new research held by Los Angeles Times is questioning  the 12-hour duration of  the painkiller Oxycontin. The drug has been marketed as a two ingest drug per day, to help cancer patients and any others experiencing serious pain.

Oxycontin's false advertisement
Purdue managed to obtain FDA approval after a last trial was held in Puerto Rico. The trial proved that 90 percent of patients had experienced a 12 hour relief with the pill. Image Credit: Bloomberg

The company that started its product in 1990 has now become one of the top-selling painkillers in the country and worldwide. The article describes how the company has known about the short effect of their drug throughout all of this years.

Magnified 12-hour relief drug

The drug Oxycontin has been produced by the company Purdue Pharma since the beginnings of the 1990’s. Since the, the company has increased its profits up to $35 billion.

The family behind the manufacture of the drug are the Sackler’s.  They’re classified as one of America’s richest families with a net worth of $14 billion, according to Forbes. In addition, the family’s asset then passes to the Rockefellers.

The drug first emerged on the market thanks to the 12-hour window of pain relieve, since many opioids and painkillers are known to last only a few hours. Patients need to take up to 7 or more pills a day to relieve their pain. Since OxyContin has been marketed as a 12-hour relief drug, patients would only need to take one pill in the morning and one in the night. Helping patients  to relieve their serious pain.

The drug has become famous across the world and it has helped patients all over the world. Nonetheless, it has been in the public eye after the latest opioid abuse epidemic. Since it is one of the biggest companies in the painkiller business.

The Los Angeles Times writes in their research titled ‘You want a description of hell? OxyContin’s 12-hour problem’ how the drug has contributed to patient addiction and overdose.

According to the research, Purdue has been marketing OxyContin for the last decade as a 12 hour relief drug, yet a wide amount of studies, researches, patient and doctors statements reveal the opposite. The duration of the drug is eight hours at it’s top and since the drug is a chemical cousin of heroin, patients experience symptoms of withdrawal and crave the drug.

Digging deeper into the company

The research published by The Times is based on thousands of confidential Purdue document pages and other documents. After studying the data it has been revealed to the Los Angeles Times that OxyContin, in fact, lasts less than a 12 hour period. Purdue has known about the issue for the last decade, claims the study.

To gain FDA approval, Purdue had to submit the drug to several trials and researches. However, trials remained inconclusive since many patients reported the effect lasted less than 12 hours.  Doctors and sales representatives backed up the complaints.OxyContin is marketed as the strongest painkiller in the market that allows patients to take just two pills a day.

Oxycontin 80 milligram tablets
After several reports were made to the company of the short-duration of the drug, Purdue recommended that doctors adapted prescriptions to the patients. Photo courtesy of Scott Haskell

Physicians and doctors could prescribe OxyContin to patients suffering from severe pain, if the patient complained about the short duration of the drug, doctors were recommended to upgrade the dosis but never prescribe an 8 hour consumption or less.

According to the Times several reports and documents of the company back this statements, if the drug were to be prescribed as a “every 8 hours drug” it could lose its marketing catch and patients wouldn’t pay hundreds of dollars per bottle.

The main focus of Purdue managers was to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones, since it is a strong opioid it opens more the possibility of overdose and death.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health informs that about 7 million Americans are prescribed with the drug. Oxycontin has been blamed as one of the causes for the epidemic that has taken 190,000 lives.

“When many doctors began prescribing OxyContin at shorter intervals in the late 1990s, Purdue executives mobilized sales reps to refocus physicians on 12 hour dosing. Anything shorter “needs to be nipped in the bud NOW!, wrote one manager to the staff” reads the article published by the Los Angeles Times.

The article describes different stories of patients that were prescribed with OxyContin and had addiction issues with the drug. Ernest Gallego, one of the cases in the article ended up overdosing on OxyContin. Throughout the article it’s shown how Purdue representative and workers were encouraged to assure insurance companies and doctors to only prescribe two a twelve hour consumption, with higher doses.

A message from a manager to their workers in the article reads the title “$$$$$ It’s Bonus Time in the Neighborhood” employees that convince facilities of increasing the doses will “win the battle” reads the extract.

As a response to the Los Angeles Times a Purdue representative told CBS MoneyWatch it “rejects the claims” made by the newspaper since the company has provided the LAT with a wide amount of briefings and clinical evidence that supports the 12 hour dosing.

Source: LA Times