Pubdate: Mon, 18 Oct 2004
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: The Windsor Star 2004
Author: John Stewart
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


A Windsor Star story, Painkiller Linked to 250 Ontario Deaths (Aug.
4), has been seriously misinterpreted as a report of deaths caused
exclusively by OxyContin.

The article stated, "In the past five years there were 300 deaths in
Ontario in which oxycodone, an opiate found in the brands OxyContin
and Percocet, was detected in the body, said the province's chief
coroner, Dr. Barry McLellan." However, several subsequent stories ran
under the general headline of OxyContin Blamed For 250 Deaths In Ontario.

A recent publication from the Ontario coroner's office confirms that
the report relates to oxycodone, the drug substance, not specifically
the registered trademark OxyContin, a product that contains oxycodone,
which was detected in drug screens over the five-year period from 1999-2003.

The study did not attempt to determine whether the oxycodone was due
to the ingestion of OxyContin or another oxycodone-containing product.
In addition, the study was not designed to compare the number of
oxycodone-related deaths with the number of deaths in Ontario related
to other opioids, such as morphine, hydromorphone and fentanyl, or
illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

Oxycodone is the drug substance found in eight prescription products
approved for sale in Canada. The OxyContin brand represented about
five per cent of prescriptions for all opioids in Canada in 2003,
whereas the more frequently prescribed oxycodone combination products
- -- brands such as Percodan/Percocet -- represented about 15 per cent
of all opioid prescriptions.

Prescriptions for opioids in general, and specifically
oxycodone-containing products, have been increasing over time. This
may be related to an increased prevalence of chronic pain, the aging
population and growing awareness of pain management options.

The report from the coroner's office indicates that almost all of the
cases involved polydrug use, and that the combined effects of several
drugs may have been the cause of death in the majority of cases.

Similarly, coroners' data from a recent U.S. study (Cone et al, 2003)
indicated that the vast majority -- 97 per cent -- of drug-abuse
deaths involving oxycodone were related to ingestion of multiple drugs.

Purdue understands that prescription drug abuse is a serious health
problem, and that it involves essentially all of the opioid
analgesics, not solely OxyContin. It is the abuse of these
medications, not the medications themselves, that is the cause of the

Purdue will continue to combat OxyContin abuse in particular, and
prescription drug abuse in general, through education of health-care
practitioners, support of programs to identify fraudulently obtained
prescriptions, and through research into pain medications that are
more resistant to abuse.

However, it must not be forgotten that serious pain affects millions
of Canadians every year, and that when used appropriately, OxyContin
and other opioids are safe and help to significantly improve quality
of life.

John Stewart,

Executive Vice President/ General Manager,

Purdue Canada
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