The Food and Drug Administration has approved the highly addictive and dangerous drug Oxycontin for children as young as 11 despite the fact that overdoses involving prescription painkillers now represent a national epidemic, with 17,000 Americans dying every year.
The approval was given by the FDA after a study by Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Connecticut, the same company that manufactures the drug, “supported a new pediatric indication for OxyContin in patients 11 to 16 years old,” according to the federal agency.
The fact that the drug was approved for children on the basis of a study by the same company that stands to financially profit from the decision represents a flagrant conflict of interest. In 2013, Purdue Pharma had to pay $4 million to settle with a county in Kentucky for “damages the community suffered after the company marketed OxyContin as a safer alternative to other pain medicine,” leading to the drug being dubbed “hillbilly heroin.”
Approval was also given despite Michael Botticelli, the Obama administration’s director of National Drug Control Policy, telling the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime last month that, “Opioids are having a considerable impact on public health and safety in communities across the United States,” and are responsible for almost 37 per cent of all U.S. overdose deaths.
“Because oxycodone and other opioids are extremely powerful and highly addictive, they’re very tightly regulated — and very popular with addicts and pill pushers,” reports News Channel 8, noting that on average 44 people die in the U.S. from opioids every day.
17,000 Americans die from prescription opioid overdoses a year, more than twice the amount that die from heroin overdoses. Painkiller overdoses kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined. In 2009, the number of Americans killed annually by drug poisoning, driven largely by painkillers, surpassed the number killed in motor vehicle accidents for the first time ever. Deaths from prescription painkiller abuse in the United States tripled between 1999 and 2008.
Young people are also being killed as a result of taking counterfeit Oxycontin that is tainted with fentanyl. Over just one weekend, the city of Vancouver recently logged 16 overdoses involving fentanyl, with six occurring over a period of just an hour.
A Calgary teen was also recently hospitalized and suffered brain damage from taking what he thought was an ordinary Oxycontin pill that was laced with fentanyl.
Figures show than one in 30 high schoolers has abused Oxycontin. The FDA’s decision will now ensure that Oxycontin is available to more teenagers who may choose to pass on or sell the drug to their friends.
Kids are already being overprescribed a cocktail of dangerous drugs, with over 10 million children in the United States being put on psychotropic antidepressants.
Oxycontin is the most commonly abused prescription drug in the United States, with Florida becoming the epicenter of the crisis. Addiction is so prevalent that some areas of the state have more pain clinics than McDonalds, with doctors prescribing 10 times more oxycodone pills than every other state in the country combined.
The proliferation of “pill mills” in Florida that illegally sell Oxycontin is so intense that Interstate 75 is now known as the “oxy express.”
The Peabody Award-winning documentary below, The Oxycontin Express, details how the drug has caused a lethal national epidemic.
The FDA’s decision to approve Oxycontin for children is yet another illustration of how the federal agency puts the lives of Americans at risk in favor of its cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.