Several pharmaceutical companies are looking to corner the market on pain medication by developing tamper resistant products to treat chronic pain. On Nov. 13, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel reviewed the proposed Remoxy, a narcotic pain reliever that contains oxycodone. The Bloomberg news agency reports a majority of the panel of independent advisors to the FDA said Remoxy is less susceptible to abuse than Purdue Pharma LP’s Oxycontin. Remoxy, developed by Pain Therapeutics Inc. and King Pharmaceuticals Inc., is a capsule meant to be taken twice a day. Bloomberg said six companies are moving quickly to develop painkillers that can’t be crushed, snorted or injected by users seeking to get high. The advisory panel didn’t take a formal vote, Bloomberg reports, saying the FDA usually follows the panel’s recommendations but isn’t required to. The FDA is expected to decide if it will approve Remoxy by Dec. 10.
ABUSE OF PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS ON THE RISE
The need for tamper resistant painkillers is evidenced by the soaring number of people abusing prescription opioids like Oxycontin, Percocet and Fentanyl. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2006, 16.2 million Americans 12 years of age and older had taken a prescription painkiller, tranquilizer or sedative for non-medical purposes at least once in the previous year. Many experts say the abuse of prescription drugs is quickly overtaking that of illegal “street” drugs. The black market for diverted prescription drugs is big business. Headlines in newspapers across the country are reflective of that. Young people are getting their hands on adults’ prescriptions and communities are trying to figure out how to curb abuse. The growing problem of prescription drug abuse has kept law enforcement officials busy, as related crimes have soared. In several communities across the country, doctors and nurses have been charged with writing fraudulent prescriptions. Pharmacy diversion is also a problem, as prescriptions for pills – often painkillers – have in some cases been filled fraudulently. Oftentimes, people develop an opiate dependency after taking legitimately prescribed medication for an injury, serious illness or after surgery. In other cases, people begin taking pills that have not been prescribed because of the belief they are safe because they came from a doctor. Those who abuse opiates and other drugs sometimes crush, dissolve or inject it to obtain a quick high. This practice could be fatal, leading to overdose or death.
THE FUTURE OF PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS
Opiate abusers are looking for a great high. Some pharmaceutical companies are looking to prevent that. There’s no doubt huge markets exist for both. But the Bloomberg agency said almost half of panelists expressed concerns that evidence fails to show Remoxy will live up to its claims. If one or more painkillers are eventually developed and prove to be truly tamper resistant, it’s fair to say the manufacturers will capture a very large portion of the market.