Pain killers synthesised from the narcotic substance opium doubles the death risk in patients who consume them, according to a report.
Oxycodone, an opioid analgesic medication synthesized from opium-derived thebaine, which is sold in the popular brand name (OxyContin) has led to a five-fold increase in deaths liked to pain relievers.
Opioids are one of the most commonly prescribed medications around the world to treat people with moderate-to-severe acute or chronic pain.
A study conducted in Ontario, Canada has shown that opoid analgesics-related deaths have doubled from 13.7 deaths per million residents in 1991 to 27.2 deaths per million residents in 2004, says the report.
The study found that there was a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related deaths since the addition of long-acting oxycodone to the Ontario’s drug formulary in January 2000.
The researchers led by physicians at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Toronto manually reviewed nearly 7,100 files at the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario.
While corroborating the data with IMS Health sales of prescription drugs, they found that prescriptions for oxycodone rose by more than 850 per cent during the study period – an increase much larger than for any other opioid. Oxycodone accounted for about one-third of the almost 7.2 million prescriptions for opioids dispensed in Ontario in 2006.
Most of the deaths involved an opioid consumption by a patient in the month before they died.
The increase in deaths has increased after OxyContin was added to the provincial drug benefit plan in 2000.
Deaths related to opioids increased by 41 per cent, and the number of deaths related to oxycodone rose fivefold, Over the next five years.
Nearly 54% of opioid-related deaths were accidental. In 22 per cent of cases the manner of death was undetermined and 24% deaths were considered to be suicide.
Opioids like oxycondone can have fatal side effects such as depressing breathing and decreasing level of consciousness.
Patients and doctors may not fully appreciate the potential danger of these drugs, particularly when they are taken in combination with other sedating drugs or alcohol, researchers said.
A real-time electronic databases accessible to physicians and pharmacists would make it harder for people to obtain opioids improperly from multiple doctors or pharmacies and easier for health care providers to predict and prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions, the researchers suggest as one of the ways to reduce the number of deaths related to opioid prescriptions.
In May, USFDA had ordered 14 unapproved narcotic painkillers off the market last week as part of its crack down against unapproved prescription versions of potent morphine, hydromorphone and oxycodone.
The Food and Drug Administration told nine manufacturers to quit distributing the drugs within 90 days.
The move was part of the FDA’s years-long attempt to weed out thousands of prescription drugs that sell despite never being formally approved by the health regulatory agency. Many entered the market decades ago, before federal law required such approval. The FDA estimates that unapproved drugs account for 2 percent of all prescriptions filled.
The FDA targeted unapproved versions of high-concentrate liquid morphine sulfate and unapproved immediate-release tablets containing morphine sulfate, hydromorphone and oxycodone. Most are generic.
Following the action manufacturers including Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane Inc. of Columbus, Ohio; Cody Laboratories Inc. of Cody, Wyo.; Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Mahwah, N.J.; Lannett Co. Inc. of Philadelphia; Lehigh Valley Technologies Inc. of Allentown, Pa.; Mallinckrodt Inc. Pharmaceuticals Group of St. Louis; Physicians Total Care inc. of Tulsa; Roxane Laboratories Inc. of Columbus, Ohio; and Xanodyne Pharmaceutical Inc. of Newport, Ky.received warning letters.
FDA had found that even the approved versions of these painkillers pose a risk of serious side effects, but the unapproved products add an extra problem.