In August 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made public its decision to approve OxyContin prescriptions for certain children between the ages of 11 and 16.
Naturally, there were parents and consumers who perceived this to be a bizarre verdict, one that could open up a world of trouble for a particularly vulnerable population. While critics like Hillary Clinton called the decision “absolutely incomprehensible,” top FDA officials stand by the controversial statement, as do many parents of children who suffer from cancer and other pain-inducing conditions.
According to NBC News, OxyContin is “a long-release version of oxycodone, an opioid that acts on the brain like heroin and is intended for only the most severe and chronic pain cases.”
OxyContin has had a bit of a sketchy history. Some may remember back in 2007 when executives of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company Purdue Pharma had to pay $600 million in fines for “[misleading] regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential to be abused.”
In the late 1990s, Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures and markets OxyContin, began promoting the drug as being safer and less addictive than Percocet and Vicodin. Since OyxContin is a slow-release or “long-acting” narcotic, relieving pain for up to 12 hours, Purdue Pharma was able to mislead consumers on exactly how safe the medication is.
On this false premise, Purdue Pharma marketed the drug aggressively and was able to push it to more than $1 billion in annual sales after just a few short years.
Will OxyContin Now Be Available To Just Any Kid?
Supporters of the FDA’s recent decision on OxyContin aren’t in any way proposing an opioid free-for-all among your pre-teens and teens. The agency is simply saying that under the right circumstances, to the right young patients, and for the right reasons, OxyContin can be a viable and safe option for pain relief.
Dr. Kathleen A. Neville, a pediatric oncologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, told The New York Times, “Just because OxyContin has been abused or prescribed inappropriately doesn’t mean we should deprive the children who need the drug.”
She added, “[It is] our obligation to have the best level of evidence for its use in children.”