Oxycontin – The Behind the Scenes Saga of a Dangerous Drug!

Fibromyalgia Relief Center of the Bay Area

First an important announcement.

Starting Tuesday December 6, 2011  A Telephone Support group.

I’ll be e-mailing the info out to those who wrote me this week as the group is all set up.

 e-mail fibro@drgenemartin.com

 The telephone support group will be a safe, warm and supportive environment for people to talk about their issues with Fibro or anything for that matter. You’ll be able to meet people, make new friends and be with non-judgmental people. The tone will be uplifting, affirmative and positive. The idea is to learn, to find some joy and to leave feeling good about yourselves. I (Dr. Martin) will also speak on a topic (can be your suggestions and or my choice) and there will be plenty of time for questions and answers. The nice part is that after the teleconference, an audio copy will be e-mailed to you within 24 hours. The hours will be:

Every Tuesday:                                  6 PM Pacific

                                                            7 PM Mountain      

                                                            8 PM Central

                                                            9 PM Eastern

Send an e-mail to fibro@drgenemartin.com and I’ll fill you in on the rest of the details. Remember that with cell phones or Skype, even long distance calls are pennies these days. Take a positive step


OxyContin – The Real Story.

Purdue Pharma generated $3.1 billion dollars in sales in 2010 of OxyContin. There were 6.7 million prescriptions written. By contrast Abbott Laboratories only generated 30 million dollars on 380,000 prescriptions written for Vicodin. They are both for severe pain, why such a difference.

The story of OxyContin  is quite enlightening. OxyContin was developed by Purdue in the mid 90’s. and was touted as an addiction free pain killer, yet this drug has  basically left a trail of death and destruction in it’s wake. This pharmaceutical company was very astute and clever in it’s marketing. They consistently and constantly went to individual doctors offices and spoke about it’s miraculous effects, the fact that it was non-addictive and that there was finally an answer for people suffering from the chronic pain of various illnesses. They embarked on a powerful marketing program, hitting all the medical journals and even advertised in other media, not only to doctors and hospitals, but others including pain support groups, various associations dealing with such illnesses as fibro, M.S among others and were very very persistent in their continual pushing of this “miracle drug”. The only problem was that they were not telling the truth. In fact their marketing was so fictitious that eventually (after the typical denials and legal games) that they pleaded guilty in Federal Criminal court  for misbranding the drug with the intent to mislead the public. They had to pay $635 million in damages and are now on the corporate equivalent of probation. Yet the damage has been done and OxyContin is the second most abused drug today in the United States (the first being alcohol). By the way 600 million is pocket change to them.

Oxy is highly addictive and produces a high similar to heroin and equally as difficult to stop using. In fact it is nick named “The Poor Mans Heroin”

The story begins with the fact the fact that Purdue was a small family owned business and that the active ingredient of Oxycodone has been around since 1916. The Purdue brothers, especially, the eldest, Arthur, was a brilliant marketer and joined a small advertising company that specialized in medications. (In fact he helped turn Valium into the first 100 million dollar drug ever sold). Arthur’s research and study in marketing, (not to be confused with laboratory research), convinced him that he could take a medication that existed for sever pain like cancer, tinker with the formula and tout it as the new wonder drug, and that is exactly what he did. He took the drug Oxycodone, (which was generic by this point) and created a time released formula, which he stated would work over 12 hours per pill. He won FDA approval to sell this as a new med in 1995. He immediately began a push to create one of the largest and most successful advertising campaigns in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.He pushed the drug for every type of pain, from backaches to headaches to cancer and everything in between. He was able to overcome doctors misgivings by convincing them that since it was time released, there was no danger of addiction. In fact a Purdue company video sent to doctors and hospitals claimed that the addiction rate was less than 1 percent.

Their plan worked as sales went from $45 million in 1996 to $1.5 billion in 2002 to nearly $3 billion in 2009.The beauty was that nearly half of those prescribing these meds were family doctors or primary care doctors, not specialists or even oncologists!

But then, the dark side began to emerge as doctors quickly learned that the effects of the med lasted only 8 hours, not 12 hours and that the patients would immediately go into withdrawal needing higher and higher doses. Patients, even taking small amounts, quickly found themselves addicted. Executives at Purdue told the Congress investigators that they only learned of these problems in 2000 but confidential company records showed that they were aware of these problems at least 3 years earlier. The U.S. attorney in Maine warned the company of the problems in 1997, but nothing was done. Internal company memos showed that the COO (Chief Operating Officer) Michael Friedman was well aware of these problems, but did not act. After all the money was rolling in and Purdue Pharma went from a small backwater company and rode the wave of OxyContin into a giant Pharmaceutical company!

In the early 2000’s federal Prosecutors formally recommended charging Purdue and it’s three top executives with multiple felonies, including conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and money laundering in addition to misbranding about the side effects of the med. Purdue hired an all star defense team which included Mary Jo White, a former U.S. Attorney and Rudy Giuliani who was than the republican’s potential front runner for presidential nomination. After much political maneuvering the company was charged with only a single felony and had to pay $600.5 million dollars and each of the top three executives had to pay $34 million dollars each (which was paid by the company Purdue).  The company admitted only that it’s promotional matter contained misleading information. When you compare this to the billions in sales, it is like they got away with murder, which is apropos as OxyContin has left a trail of death and destroyed lives in it’s wake since the beginning of it’s sales.

There have been celebrities have have come forth about their addictions to Oxycontin, the most famous being Rush Limbaugh and Winona Ryder. When actor Keith Ladger was found dead, he had Oxy in his system.

One of the things that addicts ultimately began to do was to crush up the pills into a powder and than use a needle to inject it, or to snort it (inhaling it upt the nose). Purdue in response changed the formulation so it can no longer be used in this fashion, how ever the fact remains, OxyContin is an extremely addictive medication and this addiction takes hold very very fast.

Other Pharmaceutical companies see the vast money potential and are positioning themselves to get into this every growing market. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chair of the Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York and president for Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing views Purdue Pharma as benefiting from addiction. As he put it:, “Once you’ve got a patient who is addicted or physically dependent, and they’re going to be too sick to stop taking it, that’s a very good business model.”

Be aware that there are Doctors who prescribe OxyContin, like giving out candy, we call them mills. A personal example is a local doctor who calls himself a pain specialist and as a waiting list of patients. Many times he doesn’t even see the patient, his receptionist (wife) writes the prescription and he signs it). I’ve had patients come to my office to be treated for Fibromyalgia who had seen this Doctor many times and were very addicted. The worst case was a fellow who was up to 600mg per day. (keep in mind that 5 mg are enough to get you pretty high (stoned). This man was one step away from suicide and his wife and get rid the house of all his hunting rifles. Slowly weaning him off the med was out of the question. This fellow was sent to a hospital as an inpatient for 10 days to go through a highly supervised detoxification process. He made it and is now free of this horrible medication, but the process was hell. He screamed and cried and was in constant horrible pain (from the withdrawal, not the fibro), according to his life. He made it, many don’t. A perspective patient  (with whom I made a house call) had been hoarding her Oxycontin and finally overdosed and died. This was her way out, and it is probably a lot more common than is known.


Remember, the Fibromyalgia telephone support group is now all set up and I will be e-mailing those who expressed interest this week. It took a while but I wanted to make sure that it was set up probably.

Dr. Gene

15 thoughts on “Oxycontin – The Behind the Scenes Saga of a Dangerous Drug!

  1. Oxycontin was a wonderful medication for me. I no longer need it but when I did, it was a life saver. Sadly, it killed so many others… smh

  2. I have been on Oxy for nearly 2 years, it was a “last resort” drug for me. It helps with 30% pain reduction which allows some return to a normal life. Overall I take 60mg per day and have extra Oxynorm 10mg to add when needed. I often have spare pills of Oxynorm as I am not driven to take them. My memory lets me forget to take my pills totally which leads me to believe I am taking them for the right reason and not just because they are there
    I expect one can hoard and overdose on many meds so the issue there is “state of mind” and not drug availability.
    In Australia I need a GP as well as a “Specialist” to both agree to my ongoing use of Oxycontin, this is reviewed yearly. We don’t seem to have the issues with Oxy being a street drug (yet), not in a major way at least.

    • That’s good to hear, the problem is rampant in the U.S. with many deaths. It is the drug of choice not only among the kids but the most abused among adults (after alcohol), I wrote the blog mainly because of the illegal activities perpetrated by Purdue Pharma to get it to the market and make their billions. It’s what “cracl was” 10 years ago.

  3. I am surprised they were not forced to pull this drug from the market. Forcing doctors to write prescriptions for something less addictive to patients? For their own safety..

  4. People are not warned about the possible side effects as well as the addiction. I began taking it because of excruciating lower back pain that was stopping me walking & I needed to work. Only lasted on them a short while, vomiting, breathing problems & then I was found unconscious on the bus on the way home from work. Thank goodness I was in a small town & the bus driver knew me. That was the last time I took it.

    • I know, it’s a large problem, and people are led to believe that meds are pretty safe. In fact they don’t realize that over the counter meds can be just as dangerous. It’s all about money and sales. I forget the number but I believe it is something like as many die each year from drug interactions as if 3 747 jumbo jegts crashed every day.

  5. What we need is support through education, then support to carry out what we’ve learned. Thanks for both!
    God Bless you and your efforts!

  6. I have been on and off these meds and others for over ten years, with regular visits to my PMP every three months and routine blood work to check on my organs. Over the course of ten years since been diagnosised with fibro and my trail of many physicians, some believing and some saying that it was all in my mind. I haven’t found a cure all, but I have gain some since of relief from if nothing but a little pain. I’ve been in physical therapy, aqua therapy, self-help groups, focused groups, online groups, various medical conference. I’ve come to this conclusion, that a simple aspirin can kill you and there are a lot of addictive items, drugs, drinks, food, etc., but in order for anyone to survive in this medical world, the patient has to have a support team of physicians, whether it’s pain management, internal medicine, holistic, family and the patient theirselves have to be upfront and involved. Don’t just rely on medicines to heal you. I have a ton of other medical issues that has increased my pain levels. I really do appreciate the steps that others are taking to protect us and ensure that we are being giving medicines that will help control some of the medical issues that we have and not kill us. But don’t forget that as humans, there is always going to be someone that will abuse the system, that can and will cause death. Continue to inform us of all the dangers that lurk around the medical field and especially with the pharmactial companies, because they cover up alot of things that should be known to all; don’t utimately blame them for the abuse that lurks around the world. People that are suffering from chemo, radiation, burn units, are any deliberating disease, shouldn’t be punished due to a few abusers (being patients/doctors). Is there really an answer or a cure to chronic pain? Only He knows.

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