Author: Hannah

The Problem with Prescription Drug Dependence

The Problem with Prescription Drug Dependence

Op-Ed: Fentanyl pill producers used to mimic other pharmaceuticals, now they don’t have to (Part II)

In another series of posts on the ongoing opioid crisis, former FDA scientist Dan Kwan has laid out a scenario that could lead the U.S. drug regulators down the wrong path. In particular, he describes how Purdue Pharma’s (the maker of OxyContin) marketing of a “pill” of OxyContin (brand name “Purdue Relenza”) mimicked the design of other addictive drugs that were also sold over the counter, such as the popular painkiller codeine and the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine. Both of these drugs are approved for human use in the U.S. but are not approved for the use of humans in animals. The result:

“Animal-drugs-dog-heart attack-pill-OxyContin-human-use-in-animal-clinical-trials”: this is the pattern of the OxyContin story.

The story is about the over-dependence of humans on opioids for pain management. This addiction is often called “medical” because the drug is given to a patient hoping to lessen a pain that no longer exists. This is an addiction that exists and is well documented, but the addiction is not “medical” in the traditional sense of the word. The term medical addiction refers to a psychological dependence of a patient on an opioid when used as directed by a physician for a non-medical, non-toxic or non-dangerous medical purpose.

The problem of pharmaceutical dependence on human beings has been well described by a psychiatrist named Philip J. Landrigan. The problem is this: there is a problem with prescription drug dependence. The problem is the prescription drug addiction is often difficult to treat. A prescription drug is an unregulated drug sold by a private, not-for-profit pharmacy or physician office, usually for a very low price. And it is used for a disease or medical condition and for a short period of time – generally three to six months. This relatively short period of time is usually prescribed, but it is not a “medical” prescription.

So the drug addict has a prescription drug problem. The problem is that

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