FDA Approves Purdue Pharma’s “New” OxyContin

OxyContin closeup shot.

One would have had to have been living under a rock not to know about the 21st century opioid epidemic that our country is struggling with. It’s been terrible, it’s been all over the news, it’s been a constantly growing and expanding problem, and for the most part, we as a nation have been unable to do anything to hinder the growth of such a crippling crisis.

When we really take a look into the opioid epidemic, a crisis that has taken more than four-hundred thousand lives since 1999 and which currently has twelve million Americans hooked, the vast majority of the blame for the opioid epidemic should fall on pharmaceutical giants. Shortly after the American Medical Administration demanded better and more priority-based treatment of patients’ physical pain, pharmaceutical giants completely blew the lid off of massive pharmaceutical opioid manufacture and distribution.

Between 2001 and 2005, the production, distribution, and proliferation of highly addictive and mind-altering opioid pain relievers increased by more than three-hundred percent. Between 2005 and 2012, it increased again, this time by two-hundred percent.

As the production of pharmaceuticals increased, so did addiction rates, death rates, and treatment center admissions, all in tandem. Left, right, and center, millions of Americans from all walks of life began struggling with the crippling difficulties of opioid dependence almost overnight, and they were struggling thanks to legal drugs that were supposed to be “safe and helpful” for them. What a joke.

After several years of a growing, terrible, and lethal epidemic, pressure began to bear on pharmaceutical manufacturers. Enough Americans began to see the real puppet masters of the opioid epidemic, and a public outcry ensued. As a response, the FDA demanded a solution. And what was Big Pharma’s “solution?? Their solution arrived around 2010 in the form of “abuse-deterrent” pharmaceutical drugs.

Purdue Pharma Sets the Stage for Abuse Deterrents

Both hands with pills.

Without a doubt, the most common and lethal opioid pain reliever is oxycodone, also called OxyContin. Purdue Pharma innovated oxycodone in the late 1990s as one of the first mass-produced pain relievers. In 2010, Purdue released OxyContin, a modification of old oxycodone that was supposed to be less addictive.

It wasn’t.

If anything, more people became addicted to this new version of oxycodone as doctors continued to prescribe it at higher-than-ever rates.

Fast forward to 2015, and the FDA approved yet another formulation of OxyContin, this one supposedly “addiction-free.” But then, in 2016, the United States experienced highest-ever opioid overdoses with more than forty-thousand Americans losing their lives from overdoses on opioid drugs.

The bottom line is that abuse-deterrents do not work, and the sooner we recognize that, the better off we will be. Abuse-deterrents were a classic cop-out effort by pharmaceutical companies in order to reduce the pressure brought to bear on them for their hand in causing the opiate epidemic.

The FDA and the CDC have already begun petitioning pharmaceutical giants to innovate non-opiate pain relief options, but no pharmaceutical company has made much forward momentum in this category. And why would they? The pharmaceutical industry is now a multi-billion dollar industry, an industry that’s been all but built off the backs of helpless, “legalized” addict-patients.

What we actually need is totally safe and addiction-free solutions to pain relief. Only by innovating strategies that create a full reduction in pain without any risk for addiction, will we be able to make forward progress in safe and effective pain relief. It is long past time that we made holistic and alternative, drug-free methods of pain relief the norm in America.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.