Oxycontin for Kids?
Despite Oxycontin’s widely publicized and detrimental health effects on humans, the FDA announced on Thursday that prescribing Oxycontin for kids is safe ages 11 to 16. A long release form of Oxycodone, the opioid is used to manage severe and chronic pain. Known for being highly addictive, it is commonly abused by crushing and snorting or injecting it to receive a powerful high. The manufacturer Purdue Pharma reformulated the drug in an attempt to prevent people from getting a buzz from it.
The idea of this new ruling is to cut back on the amount of pills that a patient has to take, which can help them have time to do other things. According to Dr. Sharon Hertz, Director of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products for the FDA, “In pediatric patients who require opioid treatment to manage pain, extended-release opioids may be a useful alternative because they are taken only once or twice per day rather than every 4 to 6 hours.” Speaking on the different uses between children and adults, she also added that “Pediatric patients don’t usually have the same kind of chronic pain conditions as adults, so patients in the study were prescribed Oxycontin in situations where they were expected to require pain management with an opioid for many weeks – for example, after extensive trauma, or after major spinal surgery or other types of major surgery to correct of birth defects.”
A pediatric patient must show they can handle 20 milligrams of Oxycodone for five consecutive days before getting Oxycontin, which will help cut back on bad reactions to the medication. This is because a sudden dose of opioid can lead to overdose if a patient hasn’t been introduced to the medication before. Not only can the effects be dangerous, but Hertz explains ”When the decision is made to stop the medication, it should be done slowly and carefully to avoid withdrawal symptoms.“ Though most pediatric patients will receive the pills in hospitals, they are also allowed to be prescribed for home use in some cases.
Profits, Addiction, and Influence
When Oxycontin is abused, the effects are very similar to heroin. It can be very pricey and difficult to find, two more factors known to lead people to heroin. Heroin is more available and affordable, which is why nearly half of young people start with pills before shooting up for the first time.
The family behind the Purdue Pharma out of Connecticut are the Sacklers, and are among the 20th wealthiest in the country. Purdue generates about $3 Billion in revenue per year and they offer a variety of other widely-used and highly controversial opiates as well. Three brothers who were practicing psychiatrists, Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler, started the business back in 1952 and initially sold less harmful products like laxatives. Although the dangers are obvious, the advertisements claimed that OxyContin was abuse-resistant, and therefore the company was forced to pay $635 million in fines following pleading guilty to false marketing charges by the Department of Justice.
Despite the lawsuit, Purdue remains strong and continues to lobby year after year, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars towards lobbying efforts for big pharma. They have spent $310,000 so far this year and are partners of a trade group that has already spent over $10,000,000 this year.
Cannabis has been proven to help people of all ages with a wide variety of ailments that Oxycontin is often used to treat. For example, cannabis oil has helped a severely epileptic 6-year-old boy ween off nearly 22 medications, including Oxycontin. The type of cannabis used for helping children is historically very low in THC, the compound in marijuana that gives the ‘high’ feeling. Instead, it has a higher concentration of CBD, which is a compound in weed that is known to help with pain and not cause a high. This story is one of many, and illustrates just how effective cannabis can be for children when researched and administered correctly.
Purdue Pharma has a lot to gain by keeping cannabis illegal. As long as the government continues to fund and support big pharmaceutical firms, they will continue to flourish and their influence will only grow stronger.
“The Nation obtained a confidential financial disclosure from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids showing that the group’s largest donors include Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, and Abbott Laboratories, maker of the opioid Vicodin.” –The Nation