Pubdate: Mon, 13 Aug 2001
Source: Springfield News-Leader (MO)
Copyright: 2001 The Springfield News-Leader
Author: David Berg
Note: David Berg, Springfield, is Web-master of PainOnline, 


The Aug. 5 article in the News-Leader about OxyContin relates the tragedy 
of a handful of individuals who died through the inappropriate use of the 
drug. The sad truth is that these deaths were due to drug abuse. Taking 
OxyContin off the market wouldn't have avoided all of those tragic deaths, 
because if they didn't have access to OxyContin it's likely they would have 
abused another drug. Opiate-based drugs have been used for pain management 
for thousands of years and they have been misused for just as long.

One fact that must not be lost in this discussion is that for some 
patients, such as some cancer patients, OxyContin provides more effective 
pain relief that any other drug available. Many people live each day with 
torturous pain. It would be immoral to tell these people that they'll have 
to live in greater pain every day because of some bureaucrat's decision.

There are some types of severe pain that even OxyContin can't touch. I know 
a young girl who suffers from debilitating attacks of trigeminal neuralgia 
from injuries suffered in the Oklahoma City bombing. Her facial pain from 
this condition is so severe at times she will sometimes go for several days 
without eating. Also, I have a relative who worked as a physician before 
being disabled in his early 40s by central pain syndrome, which causes 
constant, severe pain over his entire body. There are no drugs that offer 
effective relief for these and many other types of pain.

There is a solution to these problems, but it's not a quick or cheap fix. 
We need an entirely new class of painkiller, one that is not a narcotic. 
For example, if we knew exactly which neurotransmitters convey pain 
messages to the brain, then we could develop drugs that would stop all 
pain. There would be no more terminal cancer patients drugged out of their 
mind during their last days and no more worry about becoming addicted to 
prescription painkillers.

Scientists such as Clifford Woolf at Harvard, Tony Yaksh at University of 
California San Diego and Patrick Mantyh at the University of Minnesota are 
already on the track of some promising research. Everyone could benefit 
from this research, but it's going to take a lot of money. As it stands 
now, it's not uncommon for pain researchers to move on to other fields 
where money for research grants is more readily available. Anyone who cares 
about this issue should write Congress and request additional funding for 
basic pain research. And until scientists find better solutions, let's 
allow individuals suffering severe pain the best treatment that medical 
science can offer. Including OxyContin.
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