OxyContin Maker Curbs Painkiller Shipments

S T A M F O R D, Conn., May 11, 2001 -- The manufacturer of the prescriptionpainkiller OxyContin has suspended shipments of its large-dosetablets, citing growing problems with abuse of the drug.

Purdue Pharma's decision comes a week after the Drug EnforcementAdministration announced its strategy to combat abuse of the drug. Besides aggressively targeting doctors and pharmacists whoover-prescribe the medication, the DEA urged Purdue to reformulatethe drug to make it less easy to abuse. Purdue Pharma saidgovernment pressure had no part in its decision to suspenddistribution of the 160-milligram tablets. "Even though there have been few reports of diversion of the160-milligram tablets, Purdue is concerned about the possibility ofillicit use of tablets of such high strength," the company said ina statement released Thursday.

Opium Derivative

OxyContin, approved by the FDA in 1995, is a time-released formof oxycodone, an opium derivative also found in Percocet. It isintended for cancer patients and others with long-term pain; however, when crushed and snorted or injected, it can deliver apotent high. More than 120 overdose deaths nationwide have been linked to thedrug. In response, Shop 'n Save supermarkets pulled the drug from itsMaine pharmacies, and officials from five Eastern states met withPurdue representatives in March to discuss the problem. The 160-milligram dosage, the highest available, is prescribedfor less than 1 percent of OxyContin users.