Pain Killer: A “Wonder” Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death

By | September 11, 2016
Pain Killer: A

Pain Killer

OxyContin, a potent painkiller containing opium-derived oxycodone as its key active ingredient, was first sold in 1996 as a treatment for cancer patients and other chronic pain sufferers. From the start, the drug’s manufacturer aggressively marketed its patented time-release formula as a breakthrough in the effort to reduce prescription drug abuse. It wasn’t long, however, before thrill-seeking teenagers shattered that illusion of safety; by simply crushing an “Oxy,” they were able to tap into a high so seductive it would come to dominate their lives. Some patients, seeking relief from pain, also found themselves drawn to the drug’s dark side.

Pain Killer takes readers on a journey of discovery that begins with the true story of Lindsay, a high-school cheerleader in Virginia who gets hooked on Oxys, and expands outward to explore the critical issues of legitimate pain management, prescription drug abuse, and how the misuse of science by the drug industry threatens the public good. With the fast-rising abuse of prescription drugs by young people ringing alarm bells within government, the how and why behind the OxyContin disaster is a gripping read not only for parents, but also for medical professionals, community leaders, business executives, and all those concerned with this crisis.

The dangers described in Pain Killer also reverberate far beyond the threat from a single drug at a particular moment in time. The focus of our government’s war on drugs has clearly misled many of us into thinking that only illegal drugs smuggled from beyond our borders can be abused. As Meier tells the dramatic story, some of the most deadly substances are produced and sold legally right here at home.

THE EXTRAORDINARY AND TRUE STORY OF OXYCONTIN

EQUAL PARTS crime thriller, medical detective story, and business exposé, Pain Killer takes a hard-hitting look at how a powerful drug touted as the salvation for millions triggered a national tragedy. At its inception, the legal narcotic OxyContin was seen as a pharmaceutical dream, a “wonder” drug that would herald a sea change in medical care while reaping vast profits for its maker. It did do that; but it also unleashed a public health crisis that cut a swath of despair and crime through unsuspecting small towns, suburbs, and cities across the country. As reports of OxyContin overdoses made front-page and network news, doctors, narcotics agents, regulators, industry executives, and lawmakers raced in, scrambling to slow the damage. Behind it all stood one of America’s wealthiest families, and a drug company whose relentless promotion helped fuel the problem

Written by award-winning journalist Barry Meier, whose special report in the New York Times triggered national interest in OxyContin, Pain Killer chronicles the rise of the multibillion dollar pain management industry and lays bare its excesses and abuses.

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3 thoughts on “Pain Killer: A “Wonder” Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death

  1. Bucky
    32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    One-sided, at best…, January 29, 2004
    By 
    Bucky (Haunted Mansion, The Magic Kingdom) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Pain Killer: A “Wonder” Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death (Hardcover)
    Pain Killer is an interesting book in that it describes the circumstances surrounding the rise in Oxycontin abuse, particularly among America’s rural poor, but it tends to be a bit one-sided and heavy handed in casting Purdue and its employees as heartless villians in this story. There can be no doubt that Oxy abuse has led to heartbreak for addicts and their families all across this country. And Purdue probably did emphasize too much its use for the treatment of moderate pain that would be just as well treated by other drugs with less potential for abuse.
    But at the same time, this book practically ignores the countless numbers of patients whose intractable suffering has been eased by proper use of Oxycontin. Their stories are not told, their voices are silent, their suffering is unacknowledged. As much sympathy as I have for the addicts in this book, I would venture to say that the large majority of them never had to get involved with snorting or shooting up Oxy. But chronic pain suffers and those in the end stages of terminal diseases don’t have the option of saying no to pain. I’d bet if you talked to them, Purdue and its employees are heroes, not villians. I would have liked to have heard some of their stories.
    My other dissatisfaction with this book is that basically it is little better than an Atlantic or Harper’s magazine article padded out to book length (with a larger font and lots of white space to increase the page count). There is a lot of repetitive info in here, and many times, the chronology of events gets a bit confusing. Sometimes, I had the feeling I was just re-reading the same 40 or so pages over and over. At some points, I just skimmed.
    The story of Oxycontin and its abuse is definitely a cautionary tale, but I would have liked to have had both sides of the story.
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  2. Jessica A. Sharer
    6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
    2.0 out of 5 stars
    OK BOOK, VERY REPETITIVE, December 31, 2008
    By 
    Jessica A. Sharer (johnstown, PA US and A) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Pain Killer: A “Wonder” Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death (Hardcover)
    Myself being an abuser of OxyContin back in 2001, which eventually led to heroin addiction due to many pharmacy burglaries and stick-ups, the drug started to get a bad rap, and doctors took people off of it and the cost became insane, up to $0.75 a mg. I can honestly say that about 95% of the addicts I have encountered during my addiction started w/ OxyContin, then moved on to much cheaper, and more readily available, heroin. On the other hand, I understand that it is a wonder drug for people in end-stage cancer, and other very painful conditions, and I don’t think it should be taken off the market. However, when my friends and I raided my parents medicine cabinet (my dad was prescribed 40mg of OxyContin for laparscopic surgery on his knee, which is the equivalent of EIGHT Percocets.) When I read this book, I was shocked to see how much money Purdue Pharma put into marketing this drug. Offering free cruises and cash incentives to MD’s who wrote a lot of prescriptions, and touting it as a ‘wonder drug’ for moderate to severe pain patients. The only difference between it and Percocets is that Percocets have to be taken every 4 hours or so, Oxycontin every 12. Also, there are no additives to OxyContin other than the wax filler, the pills are pure Oxycodone, no Acetaminophen or Aspirin (which is good for people with allergies or sensitive stomachs, or chronic pain patients who are prescribed to take 3-4 Percocets every 4-6 hours, eventually the high volume of APAP is going to wreak havok on your liver.) But as you do in every profession, shady doctors over-prescribed the drug (I had a friend who broke her tailbone, a doctor prescribed her 240 40mg Oxys. The normal amount would be 60. She was not addicted beforehand, but she quickly became addicted) Doctors also prescribed for sexual favors, a certain doctor was about to be indicted recently, and he fled to the Dominican Republic, leaving his wife and children behind. Real nice guy. Luckily, I got clean May 10th of 2003, and have been clean since. Anyway, back to the book. it was a somewhat confusing read. Meier jumped around from the girl Lindsay’s story of OC addiction in Western VA, to how PP marketed the drug to doctors, and to other stuff. Some of it was so repetitive, the book could have been condensed to 1/3 of the size. When reading this book, I recommend trying to finish it within a few days, if you leave it lying around for a while, you’ll forget what’s going on, because you just get bombarded with information and study facts and numbers. All in all, it’s an OK book, but my mother and I would never have read it had I not gotten addicted to them.
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  3. KO
    37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
    2.0 out of 5 stars
    Clearly a one-sided view replayed over and over and over…., January 23, 2005
    By 
    KO (Sun Lakes, AZ USA) –

    This review is from: Pain Killer: A “Wonder” Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death (Hardcover)
    I have read and heard so many negative things about Oxycontin that I can’t keep silent about this any longer! I am a chronic pain patient who was on Oxycontin for many years. I also participated in one of their early drug trials for chronic pain, so I have personally contributed input to Purdue about how this medicine affected my body and mind. It was truly a lifesaver for me at the time, as it allowed me to return to work on a full-time basis. (When I say full-time, I REALLY mean FULL-TIME! I had two full-time 40 hr./week jobs plus I designed a bi-monthly magazine on a free-lance basis. I have several inoperable conditions which cause me to suffer constant, intractable pain on a daily basis.

    I tried all natural alternatives such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, meditation, herbal diets and others for several years before finally applying to Purdue’s clinical trial for chronic back pain, in which Oxycontin was being used for pain relief. By the time I started the trial I could hardly sit in my office chair for more than 15 minutes. I had tried other medications new to the market at the time including Trazadone, which put my heart into severe arrhythmia for days after taking only one dose. Other drugs had intolerable side effects; Oxycontin did not. Instead, I received a steady dosage of pain relief medication which did not make me ‘high’, sleepy nor nauseated. I was overjoyed to have my quality of life returned to me!

    After being in the 3-year clinical trial for a year and a half, I was told that the trial was being suddenly halted due to the bad press that Oxycontin was receiving. The company which handled the clinical trial for Purdue did not want to be involved so they just dropped all participants, leaving us with only a few pills on hand and no referral to a pain management doctor, as they had initially promised. I was fortunate to find a doctor at the 11th hour who would accept me as a pain patient.

    Without getting into all the details of ‘life afterwards’, it should suffice for me to mention that Oxycontin can be a worthwhile and helpful drug in the hands of a chronic pain patient. A person in pain does NOT get ‘high’ from opiates. Instead, the medicine is used up by the pain receptors in the brain and never reaches the ‘pleasure centers’. Pain patients feel ONLY RELIEF FROM PAIN.

    I sincerely wish this bad press would stop as it is doing a great injustice to the chronic pain patient. If a person wants to get ‘high’, they can take Oxycontin or they can take a slew of other drugs OR they can simply turn to alcohol, which is not only legal but is also widely available! I can guarantee that more young people are killed by the effects of alcohol than by Oxycontin. And yes, they can still sniff glue or smoke pot or take any number of synthetic substances such as Ecstasy and get their buzz that way. Oxycontin and Purdue are not the villains here; instead, we need to look to ourselves for responsibility and sometimes to the parents for their lack of responsibility. And ultimately, the person taking the drug is the one who has the REAL responsibility — not only to themselves, but to everyone around them who might be affected one day by their bad decisions.

    Let’s put the blame where it belongs and STOP punishing the chronic pain patients, who are only trying to have some quality of life. Thank you for listening – now won’t you please help us by spreading the word that we deserve to have our dignity restored and the quality of life returned to us – even if that means we have to take Oxycontin in order to be able to live?

    Thank you…….KO

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