2010 OxyContin Reformulation Drove Heroin Deaths

Big Pharma and Opioids

Reformulated OxyContin Helped Fuel Heroin Usage

A new study has found a correlation between the 2010 reformulation of OxyContin and a subsequent rise in heroin deaths as addicts switched from prescription drugs to street heroin.

As reported by Medical Xpress, efforts by Purdue Pharma in 2010 to make its blockbuster prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin less prone to abuse did nothing to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths across the nation.

In fact, according to researchers at the University of Notre Dame, the reformulation of OxyContin instead fueled a heroin epidemic that continues to claim lives at an increasing rate.

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n a working paper circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers at Notre Dame and Boston University studied the rise in heroin death rates since 2010 in relation to the reformulation of OxyContin, a prescription opioid introduced in 1996 to treat acute or chronic pain. They found that while prescription opioid consumption stopped rising in August 2010, heroin overdose deaths began climbing the following month, and the rate of growth was greater in areas with greater pre-reformulation access to heroin and opioids.

“A key component of the federal government’s response to the opioid epidemic has been encouraging the development of abuse-deterrent formulations of drugs,” said William N. Evans, co-author of the study and Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Economics at Notre Dame. “Our work suggests that as long as there are readily available substitutes for prescription opioids, such as heroin, reformulating painkillers will do little to mitigate the effect of the crisis.”

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