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Eating crow on "hillbilly heroin"

A while ago, Massachusetts' then attorney general decided that he'd had enough of the abuse of one particular prescription drug, so he decided to skip right over the users, the dealers, the thieves, the doctors who misprescribe, and went right after the manufacturer. I mocked and assailed Tom Reilly over the matter, lambasting him as a publicity-seeking buffoon looking to boost his ultimately futile quest for the governorship.

Well, this is painful to admit, but I owe Mr. Reilly an apology. It now seems he was on to something.

I am still convinced that Reilly is an ass, a lifetime hack and a twit who was wrong on most every issue -- but he was right to go after Purdue Pharma over oxycontin, and I was wrong to slam him over that.

I am furious. I -- like so many people -- took Purdue Pharma at their word that they had fully complied with federal requirements for testing and disclosure of oxycontin, and actually believed the claims they were making -- because I knew the laws involved were severe, and didn't think they'd be so stupid as to flout them.

They did, and now they've been socked with a fine over half a billion dollars.

It ain't enough. They deliberately underplayed the addictive properties of oxycontin, and pushed it as a safe but powerful painkiller, a "miracle drug."

Now, it did help a lot of people, and there are a lot of folks who are alive and healthy today because they used it, and used it responsibly. But there are also a lot of other people out there who went through hell because they trusted Purdue Pharma -- and I'd like to see them filing their own lawsuits.

One former oxy addict in particular comes to mind immediately.


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Comments (40)

The public has been deceive... (Below threshold)

The public has been deceived about tramadol, too. I put AKA tradename, too, but deleted it in one of the few acts of editing I've ever allowed myself.

DON'T DO THAT! That's a billion dollar fine. And I don't have a billion dollars.

My nephew(19) overdosed on ... (Below threshold)

My nephew(19) overdosed on Oxy two years ago. I am told that it was one pill given to him by a friend for a headache. He didn't have the opiate tolerance for the dosage and died in his sleep. Not a pretty sight. Bastards.
Though he took the pill and was responsible for that, I don't believe he knew the dangers.

There are a million stories... (Below threshold)

There are a million stories about the Naked Drug.

My wife works in the medica... (Below threshold)

My wife works in the medical field and she said the fine that came down yesterday is ONLY to the government. That amount will grow as the lawsuits pile up for individuals.

That company will be bankru... (Below threshold)
Bob Jones:

That company will be bankrupt before the end of the year from massive lawsuits, starting with one from Rush Limbaugh.

I am one of those whom oxyc... (Below threshold)

I am one of those whom oxycontin helped, and I am indeed grateful for it. I took it once every 12 hours to the miniute because I was knew of the dangers and I only took it for a few weeks.

I feel as though I dodged a bullet. I have to thank the "alarmists" because I heeded their warning; the company didn't give me one.

I haven't followed the stor... (Below threshold)

I haven't followed the story and don't want to equate it to other drugs on and off the market, but there are many drugs out there, even over the counter drugs, that are dangerous for some people. I can't remember the one they pulled a while back for pain, but I knew people whose lives were greatly improved by its use. And now they can't get it because of innacurate information and a supression of the warnings which caused a few to die and now untold numbers suffer.

Many years ago I was prescribed a drug that nearly killed me. Now I never take anything, even prescriptions, that I don't already know won't hurt me without talking at length to my doctor AND then I follow up with talking to the pharmicist. The pharmicist was quite candid with me once and made me aware of the possible side-effects of another drug and let me make my own decision. I should have listened to him. It made me sicker than what it was supposed to cure.

But if this company deliberately withheld information that people needed they should be sued out of existence.

<a href="http://joustthefac... (Below threshold)

I wrote about OxyContin about 2 years ago when Mass. was looking at banning the drug. While I didn't think it should be banned - it does have some applicability in chronic severe pain and cancer pain - I wouldn't have been unhappy if it had.

And, if you read the post, you'll discover a deceptive bit of promotion that the company tried to use with me.

Oyster-I think it ... (Below threshold)


I think it was Celebrex-a cox-2 inhibitor. It was not bevause it was addictive but because it was giving people heart attacks.

A good replacemnt for it is Enbrel.

ALL opiates are addictive..... (Below threshold)

ALL opiates are addictive... Any idiot knows that.
Now we will have more lawsuits because the courts have better odds than the lottery... We are NOT responsible, the doctors are NOT responsible, only the pharma after all the FDA trials to prove safety AND efficacy can be RESPONSIBLE... Sheesh, no wonder politicians get rich and lobbyists wanna buy em. Safe, Effective, cheap, freedom from responsibility, AND the ability to sue anyone who irks us... Will Hillarycare One-size-fits-most Medicine really solve ALL these problems? (The ones it won't fit are the Hillary Class of superior human)... Better watch the number of poppyseeds on the pastry...

P.S. Purdue was forced to s... (Below threshold)

P.S. Purdue was forced to stop its subsidy program for the poor and indiginent..Way-To-Go...
Anyone who has needed a pain medication knows that the doctors are watched, have a cultural bias against pain meds, and will lose their license if they presecrbe too much... Getting drugs for most folks is hard to do.

Rory, no, it was something ... (Below threshold)

Rory, no, it was something else. Gah! I wish I could remember what it was.

From personal experience, t... (Below threshold)

From personal experience, the doc prescribing this stuff said it worked great... But warned me of the problems coming off after my surgery. Seems it was common knowledge in the Medical field that Purdue was lying!

I did a little searching. ... (Below threshold)

I did a little searching. It was Vioxx. (Which was another cox-2 inhibitor.) Two of my friends have claimed that nothing the doctor has prescribed before or since has worked as well for them.

Oyster-Cripes-I th... (Below threshold)


Cripes-I think I remember what you are talking about-but erh, I'm having recall problems too-hell what's that Alzeimer's dug called again?

[Ya-gotta get me some off that...if I remember to ask the doc-]

Oyster-I was busy ... (Below threshold)


I was busy typing and didn't see your Vioxx post until now-

*Ugh* tell them to ask their doctors about Humira or Enbrel.

They are in the same class but are not having the same risks-as far as I know.

Will do, Rory.... (Below threshold)

Will do, Rory.

Reading the last line from ... (Below threshold)

Reading the last line from the story:

"Designed to be swallowed whole and digested over 12 hours, OxyContin can produce a heroinlike high if crushed and then swallowed, snorted or injected."

Is the addiction coming from people crushing it, or taking it normally? Will addiction occur if taken as directed?

We have made our present so... (Below threshold)

We have made our present society massively overdependent on the effects of drugs simply because the gold standard for effectiveness of a medical therapeutic modality is proof through experimental science of benefit compared with placebo, and no other modality besides drugs, read metabolic poisons, can satisfactorily present a placebo. We've fooled ourselves, pathetically.

Addiction can occur regardl... (Below threshold)

Addiction can occur regardless of how a drug's taken. There have been documented cases of individuals being addicted to NyQuil. Meanwhile, there are others who don't get addicted at all to nicotine. Addiction is a complex and poorly understood problem, with a lot of it dependent not only on the drug and its method of intake, but the individual taking it and even his or her expectations from the drug.

This specific court case was in regard to normal, legal use of the drug being more addictive than advertised by Purdue Pharma. Plain abuse of the drug, in terms of crushed or cooked pills, is a separate matter and not covered by this court case. It's unlikely that such abuse could be taken in this format for such a matter; you can't sue Toyota for misleading people to believe that their new cars are safer but weren't safe enough for you to intentionally run over someone.

When the government has us ... (Below threshold)

When the government has us all hooked to drugs for hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, their solution to rising costs will be the exhortation to "Work for Food", which will moderate the cost increases.

Rory and Oyster:Fo... (Below threshold)

Rory and Oyster:

For accuracy's sake Humira and Enbrel are NOT in the same class as Vioxx. They are injectable medicines used to treat more complicated rheumatological and inflammatory conditions and can be quite toxic.

Oxycontin, and its poor relation Vicoden, are the work of the devil in this prescriber's opinion, second only perhaps to tobacco in terms of the potential to destroy a human.

To extend the metaphor, dru... (Below threshold)

To extend the metaphor, drugs have poisoned our ability to think other than extremely concretely about medical therapeutics. Their effect has poisoned some of the natural metabolic pathways of the mind in finding new knowledge.

Only prospective, doubly-blinded, placebo controlled experiments can lead to knowledge. What else besides easily hidable metabolic poisons pass this test? Do you see the trap we've set for ourselves?

l Nicotine is, in fact, a ... (Below threshold)

l Nicotine is, in fact, a good drug. It is not good for people with poor circulation, or irregular heart rhythms, and it retards healing of ulcers by causing increased secretion of acid, but it has done immense good through the ages. Look how many travelers are alive because truckers fight the white line blues with high maintenance levels of nicotine? Think of the brain chemicals released by nicotine after sex, booze, food, and coffee? Think of the comity of it all. But, we should not smoke nicotine.

r Once we're all connected through the internets, one won't be allowed to comment unless nicotinized.

left, right, hup, two.

I'm not an expert by any me... (Below threshold)

I'm not an expert by any means but I did stay at a Holiday Inn, so to answer Craig's question ... The answer is No. Studies have shown that oxycodone/oxycontin are not as addictive when the patient is in real pain. Rush was not in REAL pain.
In response to Andy who said that all opiates are addictive ... oxycodone and oxycontin (the timed released version) are synthetic opiates. Hence the nicname "Hillbilly heroin"

Enbrel and Humira are biolo... (Below threshold)

Enbrel and Humira are biologic response modifiers but they can be prescribed for moderate to severe RA-the same as Vioxx and Celebrex- in fact I would say since they haven't been pulled off the market like Vioxx and Celebrex-that might just be an indication that they are safer.

Vioxx and Celebrex were being used by people with the same severity of RA.


I still don't get the nickname "Hillbilly Heroin"...

Curiousity killed the cat..... (Below threshold)

Curiousity killed the cat...

I had to google it and here is what comes up at wordspy.com

"Proven Effective in Low Back Pain," reads the medical journal ad, showing a carpenter reaching for his lumbar area. Doan's pills? Bayer aspirin? Tylenol? The ad is for OxyContin, a potentially lethal, highly abused painkiller, one a local pharmaceutical representative calls "hillbilly heroin" for its recreational popularity among rural Appalachians.
--Greg Stone, "This painkiller can kill," The Sunday Gazette Mail, March 25, 2001,

99% of the prescriptions fo... (Below threshold)

99% of the prescriptions for Oxy was obtained after druggies fugured out the could obtain it and get high on it. They were not conned that it was not adictive. Going after the drug companies is nothing more than covering for druggies, again. Users made it desirable enough for people to committ fraud and robbery to abtain the drug and sell it for big money. Educated elitest, doctors, peddled it by the millions of pills for more than the right sale price. Take away the Oxy and they started cooking Meth in the apartment next door to some of you, endangering everyone within a hundred yards + -. Take away the cold tablets used to make Meth and they ship in a stronger version from Mexico. The only cure is to put the users away for life, every time. No users, no illegal drug sales.

Purdue's loss here will sti... (Below threshold)

Purdue's loss here will stifle marketing of and likely development of narcotic preparations. I think the whole thing is ridiculous, not a good idea and another example of why the tort system is destroying our culture.

Schedule 2 drugs are highly abusable, and what makes Oxycontin such a good drug for pain (immediate and long lasting pain relief) also makes it highly abusable. This is the same as suing the gun manufacturer for the death of the guy who shoots himself in the head.

Bad idea.

For centuries weak minded a... (Below threshold)

For centuries weak minded and/or self-indulgent undisciplined people have been searching for "highs". Ban OxyContin, and they'll just look for some other new drug. They'll bake it, snort it, chew it, sniff it, drink it, atomize it, smoke it, and any other way of coaxing out of the drug some kind of high, until they succeed. Heck, I know a person who tried it with green tea leaves! That type of personality simply will not stop pursuing their "highs" just because someone banned one of their favorite recreational drugs!

In the case of people who suffer from severe, chronic pain, OxyContin has proved to be a miracle drug. If approached very conservatively in its initial use, and with health care professionals monitoring that use continuously, then it can become a crucial part of a sufferer's pain management program.

Study after study has shown that people with diseases and/or medical conditions that cause permanent, long term pain, have a completely different brain response to narcotic pain killers than do people who are simply using narcotics to achieve a "high".

For those dealing with chronic pain causing medical conditions, such as myself, pain management with narcotic pain killers is vital.

My medical condition is a rare form of Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system short circuits and starts attacking healthy joint tissues as if they were foreign invaders, destroying the healthy tissues, resulting in bone on bone deterioration that is excruciatingly painful during the deterioration process and beyond.

In the rare form that I have the RA attacks connective tissues like tendons and ligaments, and vital organs such as my lungs and vocal chords, as well as all of the tissues in every joint in my body, not just my hands and feet. To date no treatment program has been successful, and everything has failed to even slow down the rapid progression of the RA. And the disease is incurable. Plus the severity of it has triggered other medical conditions like Raynaud's Syndrome, Rheumatoid Asthma and COPD, and severe Fibromyalgia.

The fact is that there will NEVER be a time in my life when I won't need narcotic pain killers to deal with the unbelievably horrible pain caused by this form of RA.

And if I won't ever NOT be taking pain killers, then I won't ever have to worry about addiction, will I, because I'll be taking them right up until the disease finally takes me out. And if I'll always be on pain killers, then I won't EVER have to worry about the possibility of withdrawals. It's a moot point.

With the responsible use of OxyContin in a well supervised pain management program, I am thankfully able to remain self-sufficient for now, and hopefully a few more years before I end up in assisted living circumstances. The wonderful thing about OxyContin is that it doesn't leave me in a Zombie state, and I can live each day with my mental and attention abilities in full tact.

I can't help it if there are stupid, irresponsible people in this world who will abuse drugs and alcohol just to get high.

But if anyone succeeds in getting OxyContin banned, then they are dooming people like me to using less adequate drugs that leave me in a Zombie state, with impaired vision and mental and alertness functions, unable to drive or operate machinery such as even a small snowblower.

Please do not punish the sick for the actions of sicko addicts! That's all I ask you to bear in mind when you talk about the possibility of banning such an important drug.

Responsibility for the prob... (Below threshold)

Responsibility for the problem of prescription drug abuse and addiction includes:

1) patient - covered above
2) physician - way to many docs (not a majority, just way too many) hand this stuff out like candy though they may be well meaning
3) State and Federal licensing and monitoring bodies - computerized databases to identify doc shopping, prescription altering patients as well as overprescribing physicians are not uniform and only in a minority of states operate well; Tramadol is the next big problem - its currently not controlled but on the "watch list" of the FDA. RRRRIGHT. Its addictive, abused, has horrible withdrawal symptoms. I believe the FDA is afraid to admit it made a mistake in not making it at least a Schedule III drug.
4) drug companies - PF and others - though I think they bear the least burden. I believe in buyer beware. As much as I hate tobacco, I'm not a fan of the tobacco related suits either.

As a recovered opiate addic... (Below threshold)

As a recovered opiate addict(clean in 1994). i am really split on this one. On the one hand, i believe, whom ever was responsible for breaking the advertising laws should be punished as INDIVIDUALS. But, as was metioned somewhere above, now there is a good chance that the manufacturer, who probably makes helpful products and offers helpful services, will be driven into bankruptcy by endless lawsuits. because of a poor decision made by a few at the top. They are the ones that should be jailed and sued-
Also, i'm finding it REALLY hard to believe that nobody knew a drug based on oxycodone(active ingredient of percodan), and simply made into a time released medicine(increased potencey, to boot!!) would somehow be "less addictive" because of this time released feature! I got clean (thank God) just when ms contin was becoming available and i was under no illusions concerning it's addictive properties. I'm sure most doctors weren't fooled either for that matter. In fact, if i remember correctly, active addicts every where were cheering it's introduction!! sick as that sounds. Sadly, many of those active and willing addicts will now join on class action gravy train that ,no doubt will start rolling shortly.

Doctors attend class to try... (Below threshold)

Doctors attend class to try to learn how to walk the fine line between undertreating a patient, causing torment and malpractice suits, and overtreating one, causing DEA investigations and loss of license.

I'm glad you mentioned tramadol. Lies were told to the DEA about that one.

A nurse who worked ERs told... (Below threshold)

A nurse who worked ERs told me drug seeking behaviour showed up before Tramadol even got into the PDR. The patients were completely unconscious of their behaviour, because they had no idea it was addictive. It was very, very, interesting, I'm told.

I know from personal experi... (Below threshold)

I know from personal experience that OxyContin versus the generic, Morphine Sulfate, produce considerably different results (having had a spinal fracture or two, which required substantial pain management for a while).

OxyContin DOES induce an "expectancy" result. You take one, you start wondering when you can take the next one. I CAN understand how some people more easily induced to dependencies than me would become addicted to this medication.

However, with the (supposedly) generic "equivalent" medication of Morphine Sulfate, that "expectancy" result does not occur (didn't in my experience). And, one can take this generic version and not feel any need or inspiration for another one except by recurring pain threshold (without that, you don't think about taking another pill by it's own merit or attraction).

I DO believe that OxyContin has some additional, unique additives that induce dependency. Don't know what but I'd never use it again and discontinued use of it after only two pills from a full prescription, which I flushed afterward, and used the generic instead without this complication of use.

I think the thing about the... (Below threshold)

I think the thing about the "Hillbilly" association is that people in Appalachia (generally, "Hillbillies" by outsiders' reference) and other rural folks are more trusting than others. Thus, a doctor says, "take and use this until they're all gone," the Appalachian/rural person is going to try their best to follow the orders, despite any problems that they may encounter, and COMPLAIN LESS about anything.

Thus, folks in rural areas, and especially in Appalachia, have been the recipients of much marketing and a big push by pharmaceuticals and doctors to use OxyContin for various chronic pain. I can understand how they'd develope dependencies and then go untreated for THAT, thus compounding the problem with this drug.

I don't know where to begin... (Below threshold)
Kathleen Clohessy:

I don't know where to begin on this one other than to say if the government spent as much money and time and the public expressed as much outrage on finding a cure for cancer as they do on this "narcotics" nonsense ,cancer would be a thing of the past.

It all comes down to Puritan ethics and our Christianized government. Tobacco kills more people than illegal drugs, alcohol and HIV infections (caused by the "wicked" behavior of gays and intravenous drug users-according to Pat Robertson et al.) COMBINED in the US. But it's perfectly legal. Why? Because it's a major cash crop in the "Good Old Boys" backyard -the South-also home of the most rigid fundamentalist Christian extremists in our country.

And to the guy who said nicotine is a good drug ...consider this. One or two DROPS of pure nicotine on your skin is capable of killing you; people who work with this highly toxic chemical do so only with the most technically sophisticated barrier protection available-gowns, gloves, goggles and breathing apparatus in place to avoid exposure. Yet our government blithely allows its citizens to inhale this poison in massive quantities until it kills them.and/or the people around them..They even tax it!

The bottom line is that the legislation of personal behavior-no matter how harmful it may be and no matter how much it costs society- will never work. All it does is create another layer of government jobs and another means for politicians to try to convince us that they give a rat's behind about social welfare. A government that can build the most sophisticated "smart bombs" ever developed but cannot manage to ensure that every citizen-or even every child in the country has access to free health care is about as socially responsible as a nest of rattlesnakes.

I could go on forever..but I won't
Kathleen Clohessy

I forgot-I believe the term... (Below threshold)
Kathleen Clohessy:

I forgot-I believe the term "hillbilly heroin" refers only to the fact that Oxycontin is considerably cheaper and more accessible than heroin, thus making it preferrable to heroin for those people living in the economically depressed Appalachian mountains-also referred to as "hillbilly country" by some classist types.
That's all.
Kathleen Clohessy

My husband's heroin addicti... (Below threshold)

My husband's heroin addiction started with an oxycontin addiction. That stuff is the devil.

Many good points, KC, but I... (Below threshold)

Many good points, KC, but I never said nicotine wasn't a powerful drug. I said it was a good drug, but it should not be inhaled with all the extra stuff in smoke; those are the killers.






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