#212 DEA Won’t Save Us From OxyContin

Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001
Subject: #212 DEA Won’t Save Us From OxyContin

DEA Won’t Save Us From OxyContin


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #212 Thursday Jun 14, 2001

Anti-drug hype usually focuses on illegal drugs, but for the past
several months, the legal painkiller OxyContin has been the subject of
many drug scare stories. Like most drug hysteria, this crisis has been
fueled by the media and the drug warriors.

See http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n794/a04.html for an excellent
analysis from the Cleveland Free Times.

USA Today this week took a sensible editorial position on a possible
crackdown on OxyContin by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (see below).

Editorialists at the paper note that enhanced enforcement proposals by
the DEA will cause unnecessary suffering for those who really need the
drug. A DEA official was allowed to respond (also below) with typical
DEA tactics – obfuscation and misinformation.

Please write a letter to USA Today to cheer the paper’s stand for
people in chronic pain, and/or to highlight the DEA’s deadly mix of
incompetence and hypocrisy.

If you don’t do it, who will? Thank you!



Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org Your letter will then
be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts and be
motivated to follow suit.

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.


Contact Info

Source: USA Today (US)
Contact: editor@usatoday.com



US: OPED: DEA Overreaches In Effort To Stop Abuse Of Painkiller
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01.n1054.a01.html
Newshawk: Jane Marcus
Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jun 2001
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2001 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Contact: editor@usatoday.com
Website: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nfront.htm
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/466
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?186 (Oxycontin)


The headlines are enough to scare any user of prescription
painkillers: ”OxyContin addicts, crime wave linked.” The numbers
scarier still: 120 dead from abusing the powerful drug along with
thousands treated for overdoses, mostly in a string of Eastern states
from Kentucky to Maine.

Now the Drug Enforcement Agency ( DEA ) is stepping in to curb what
law enforcement describes as ”epidemic abuse” of ”poor man’s
heroin,” with its first-ever plan to attack abuse of a specific brand
of prescription.

But the public isn’t likely to applaud the DEA’s heavy-handed
solution, if it goes into effect. It would set up needless
bureaucratic hurdles that could limit access to other painkillers.
Worse, it threatens to undermine the decade-long fight to reform pain

OxyContin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December
1995 to treat moderate to serious pain in a host of medical
conditions. While the active ingredient, oxycodone, has been around
for a half-century, OxyContin’s innovation, and the reason it was
prescribed by doctors 6 million times last year, is its timed release
of ingredients that allows the drug to work for 12 hours, twice the
normal range.

Like other painkillers, OxyContin also is popular with drug abusers
who crush the pills and snort or inject the powder. That’s why the DEA
wisely requires pharmacies to maintain detailed records on OxyContin
prescriptions and other drugs with the most potential for abuse.
Similarly, it forbids the refill of such prescriptions and imposes
limits on supplies provided to manufacturers.

Even so, the DEA claims that OxyContin abuse has become such a
powerful threat that it requires new interdiction efforts.

For instance, the DEA has asked Purdue Pharma, the drug’s
manufacturer, to restrict those writing OxyContin prescriptions to
pain specialists and other doctors who regularly deal with chronic
pain. But there are fewer than 4,000 certified pain specialists in the
USA. If the restrictions move forward, millions won’t have access to
the specialists who can prescribe a medicine they need.

The DEA also has told Congress that it is considering limits on
supplies of the painkiller, even though it’s used by more Americans
than Viagra. Unless the Bush administration steps in and stops those
plans, thousands of Americans in serious pain from devastating
illnesses could be deprived of the painkiller their doctors believe is
most appropriate.

The DEA argues that such efforts are justified because of OxyContin’s
high potential for abuse. But 40 other prescription drugs contain
oxycodone, and the DEA isn’t seeking to restrict their use. At least
six other prescription drugs are linked to more deaths and
emergency-room visits than oxycodone but don’t face similar DEA
attention. And regardless, 90% of deaths blamed on oxycodone involve
other drugs as well.

More importantly, there’s little evidence that restricting patients’
access to painkillers will do much to fight drug abuse. Only last
year, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a
study, based in part on the DEA’s own data, concluding that increased
prescribing of powerful painkillers did not increase drug abuse.

The DEA has plenty of law-enforcement tools to fight the illicit use
of prescription painkillers. There’s no reason that its war against
one drug should interfere with the legitimate practice of medicine.


US: DEA Goal – Protect The Public
Newshawk: DrugSense http://www.drugsense.org/
Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jun 2001
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2001 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Contact: editor@usatoday.com
Website: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nfront.htm
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/466
Author: Donnie R. Marshall
Note: Donnie R. Marshall is administrator of the Drug Enforcement


Recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration ( DEA ) has become aware
of the increasing abuse and diversion of the powerful narcotic
OxyContin. For those suffering from intractable pain, it provides
critical relief. For others, it is a powerful substitute for heroin.
The DEA’s responsibility is to prevent the diversion of addictive
pharmaceutical controlled substances while ensuring adequate supplies
for legitimate medical needs.

Since its introduction in 1996, the number of OxyContin prescriptions
has increased 1,800% to 6 million in 2000. There are also increased
reports from medical examiners, drug-abuse treatment centers, law
enforcement personnel and pharmacists about the abuse and diversion of
this drug.

Emergency department and coroner reports involving the active
ingredient in OxyContin have increased 200% and 400% respectively
since 1996. For the year 2000, the DEA has also received 291 coroner
reports from the six states most affected. Treatment programs in such
states as Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia reported
between 50% and 90% of new patients said OxyContin was their primary
drug of abuse. In some cases, entire towns have suffered the effects
of illicit OxyContin abuse.

The DEA responded to this critical public-health problem in a measured
and reasonable manner by establishing an ongoing dialogue with the
health-care community, pharmaceutical industry and other government
agencies to ensure OxyContin is appropriately prescribed and available
to those who truly need it. There is consensus within the
pain-management community that many doctors don’t have the training to
properly treat chronic pain, leading many to prescribe this powerful
narcotic to individuals who seek the drug for non-medical reasons.

The DEA appreciates the attention given to this issue, as it has
increased the awareness of the medical community and the public about
the potential dangers of potent narcotics such as OxyContin. However,
it has also served to unfairly raise concerns that the DEA may place
undue restrictions on the availability of this drug, depriving those
with a legitimate need. This is untrue. Americans should be confident
that the DEA will not only ensure that OxyContin is adequately
supplied, but also that the public will be protected from injury or
death associated with the diversion and abuse of OxyContin.



To the editor of USA Today:

I applaud USA Today for defending people suffering from chronic pain.
Challenging the DEA’s new proposed restrictions on the painkiller
OxyContin is the right thing to do (“DEA Overreaches In Effort To Stop
Abuse Of Painkiller,” June 13).

The response from DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall, stating that new
regulations won’t hurt legitimate OxyContin users while restricting
recreational use, is both unbelievable and hypocritical. A look at DEA
efforts to “protect” us from illegal drugs like Ecstasy indicates his
assertions don’t add up. Ecstasy is much more widely used and
infinitely more profitable since it was outlawed in the mid-1980s, but
impossible to obtain through legitimate channels for therapeutic use.
As for the DEA’s compassion for people suffering with chronic pain,
ask a medical marijuana user how helpful the DEA in addressing their

Like all drug crackdowns, the DEA’s proposed get-tough rules means
that a black market catering to recreational users will grow, while
people who really need the drug will find it tougher to obtain through
legal means. This pattern is so frequently repeated, it’s hard not to
wonder if this isn’t the ultimate goal of all drug wars.

Stephen Young contact info


IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone

Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify
it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous
copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives
credit for his/her work.



With a U.S. circulation of over 2.3 million, the readership
demographics are: Total Adult Readers 4.3 million. Male/Female 66/34%.
Median Age 41 years. Attended College 80%. Median HH Income $71, 661.

The average published letter would cost over $5,000 if purchased as an

The MAP published letter archive has 45 letters from USA Today. A
recent sample shows they tend to be short – about 40% being under 100
words. The average published is 169 words, and the largest about 300

The published letters can be viewed here:



ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing

3 Tips for Letter Writers http://www.mapinc.org/3tips.htm

Letter Writers Style Guide http://www.mapinc.org/style.htm






Prepared by Stephen Young – http://www.maximizingharm.com/
Focus Alert Specialist