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Pat Oreilly

The following is a series of articles by Pat Oreilly

We will be adding new articles on a regular basis

About the Author



Pat Oreilly

Just when chronic pain is finally being
recognized as a legitimate medical concern,
the OxyContin issue threatens to change everything...


Anyone that has lived with chronic pain pays special attention when we hear the word opiate ( or narcotic) in a news broadcast. Lately the opiate we are hearing the most about is OxyContin. What is Oxycontin and why is this story spreading terror in the lives of people with chronic pain?

OxyContin is not a new drug. It is merely a reformulation of a medication that many people with chronic pain have used to help them lead a more normal life. OxyContin is a timed released version of oxycodone, which carries several brand names, the most familiar are Percodan and Tylox. It is a synthetic drug that converts to morphine in the system. 5mg. of Oxycodone is equivelent to 30mg. of codeine. It is the long-acting formulation that makes Oxycontin effective for chronic pain, but when the tablets are crushed this time release action is broken and an addict receives a larger amount of the drug all at once.

The new timed released version is not appropriate for:

  1. Used PRN. (on an as-needed basis) It should be taken on a regular schedule set by your doctor
  2. Immediate post-op. (First 12-24 hours) unless the patient is already taking it prior to surgery.
  3. Pain that is mild or not expected to persist for an extended period of time.
It is appropriate for moderate to severe pain that is expected to persist for an extended period of time.

Recently, the company that manufactures OxyContin, Purdue Pharma,has removed the highest strength of this medication, 160 mg., from the market to try to prevent diversion of the drug to illegitimate dealers.  In addition, Purdue Pharma has made a good effort to stop diversion of it's product into illegal markets. These efforts include:


1. Working with the FDA to make warnings on labels and package inserts more prominent so no one can miss them. The FDA strongest warning label called "the black box" is clearly imprinted at the top of each label and package insert.

2. Giving 500,000 doctors and 60,000 druggists brochures on preventing prescription drug abuse, and will mail out 800,000 "Dear Healthcare Professional" letters containing information about the warning that is going on the labels.

3. Distributed kits to help physicians distinguish between real pain sufferers and fakers that do not need this type of medication. These kits contain tamper-proof prescription pads for physicians to use with this medication.

4. Spending tens of millions of dollars in an effort to develop an abuse-resistant form of the pain relieving tablets.

The company and all agencies involved in this battle recognize that this medication has proved to be a life-saver for millions of pain afflicted people, and want to see that it will continue to be available for those that legitimately need it. However, media hype has made it seem as if this drug is causing a national epidemic of abuse of the drug and is causing a rash of robberies across the country. This simply is not true. 

Recently the state medical examiners office issued a statement that there were 152 deaths from overdoses of morphine-like prescription drugs including Oxycontin in the last six months of 2000.

The South-Florida Sun Sentinal reported that there had been 152 fatal overdose cases in six months caused by Oxycontin. As the story was reported other news wires picked it up and published it in national news agencies.  This is an example of how the Oxycontin statistics have been blown out of proportion.

Meanwhile, millions of people with legitmate pain problems worry how this news will affect their doctor's willingness to prescribe opiate medication. Hundreds of patients have written Purdue expressing concerns over being able to continue to find doctors that will prescribe OxyContin for them. There could conceivably be hundreds or thousands of people with pain that consider suicide as an alternative to going back to living with pain. When you weigh the difference of losing possibly hundred junkies that are obtaining this drug illegally with the hundreds of people that may lose their will to live without this drug I think the answer here is obvious.


The DEA, which controls the allotment of these pharmaceuticals that can be introduced to the market has threatened to roll the allotments back to the level that was acceptable in 1995. If you are at all familiar with chronic pain you realize that in 1995 prescriptions for opiate medication  for long-term pain were almost impossible to get, and most people that lived with chronic non-malignant pain were forced to either go underground to purchase needed medication, or live a hellish life that no human being should be forced to live.


If there ever was a time to get visible it is now. People living with chronic pain must write letters to anyone that will listen and have a possible impact on this situation. Letters to the editor of your local newspaper, clubs and organizations that may have some influence with the legislature, letters and comments to publications that publish articles about opiate medications, anyone the has the power to influence the lawmakers.


We cannot allow ourselves to be pushed back into the closet. We must act now or risk losing the medications that we have fought so hard to get prescribed for our pain. Don't put the letter writing off. Write today.

Pat Oreilly, 2001

NOTE: On August 21, 2001, Judy Hall wrote an incredible letter; one of the best descriptions of the 'Pain Patient Crisis' and sent it to the women of the Congress and Senate hoping to enlist their help for our cause. Unfortunately because of the tragic events of September 11th, we assume it was put aside or never even read by those in Washington.

Not long after mailing her letter, found that she couldn't live with her pain any longer and took her own life in November 2001.

There IS a crisis in this country today and we think it's high time it's recognized as such.  It is our hope that by making as many people as possible aware of the Pain Patients' plight, we will get a Congressional Hearinginto this, that will help to dispel the myths surrounding narcotic pain relief for chronic intractable pain sufferers. And hopefully stop pain patients from taking their own lives.

There are thousands of chronic pain patients being denied pain relief because of the stigma that has been placed on narcotic medications. There are also physicians being prosecuted for prescribing these same narcotics for pain relief. These brave individuals know that we suffer with continuous chronic intractable painand only want to provide us with relief and yet they are being charged with crimes for doing so!


We believe that the general public (for the most part) is unaware of our struggles in finding relief for our pain. And should be made aware that we are out here struggling to find pain relief.


If all of us together, could make the general public aware of what Judy so eloquently describes in her letter to Congress, then surely, surely we might see a 'changing of the tide' towards our pain, our physicians and what they so bravely attempt to do for us. And that istry to provide us the relief we so humanely deserve.

Please take time to read Judy's letter.

About the Author


For more information about Pat Oreilly visit her Web
For more information about her books, articles, newsletter, and services click here




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