After a study done by Purdue Pharma, the Food and Drug Administration has decided to allow the painkiller Oxycontin to be prescribed to children as young as 11. Oxycontin is an opioid medication and has a tendency to be very addictive. According to the National Institute of Drug Addiction, nearly half of the young people that inject Heroin started abusing prescription painkillers first.
NIDA stated on its website, “Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to Heroin when taken in prescribed doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.”
Since Children are still developing, they are highly susceptible to becoming addicted. In an interview with Mountain News, Executive Director, CEO, and President of Operation Unite Nancy Hale said, “The studies that have been done, the evidence that we have about how quickly the developing brain becomes addicted … It concerns us when you start talking about Oxycontin for children.”
She also said, “We would not want any child to struggle with pain.”
Oxycontin will be used for children who need around the clock long term pain relief. A restriction is put on the painkiller, the child has to have already been on an Opioid that can tolerate 20 milligrams of Oxycodone, which is the active ingredient in Oxycontin.
In an interview with ABC Dr. Joanna Katzman said, “With appropriate screening, we can safely prescribe these medicines to patients who need it the most for uncontrolled or untreated chronic pain.”
That doesn’t ease the worries of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin who wrote a passionate letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Stephen Ostroff.
“I have pleaded with your agency since I became a Senator almost 5 years ago to cease the flood of painkillers that is killing so many people in my state and around the country. Instead, you continue to ignore the agency’s purpose and show allegiances with everyone but the people you are charged to protect.”
“This decision does not increase access to these drugs for young cancer patients or others who may need this drug. Pediatricians prescribe medications that are not specifically approved for use in children all the time. Instead, this decision gives Purdue Pharma – a company that has already pled guilty and paid $635 million in fines for deceiving doctors regarding the addictiveness of Oxycontin – the legal right to begin advertising to pediatricians about the use of Oxycontin to treat 11-16 year-olds under certain circumstances.”
Manchin concludes his letter by vowing that he is going to ask for a Senate investigation to look into this decision and other FDA decisions regarding opioid medications. He states that he can’t sit by and do nothing while the FDA “facilitates the poisoning of our children and their parents and grandparents.”
Even with all of the objections, there are many doctors that think under certain circumstances, Oxycontin can be a great help to children who are suffering from chronic pain, and with the proper screenings, they can prescribe it with a lower risk of abuse.