An OxyContin trial in young children looks like it's strictly a business move

Pain, pain go away

Hmmm…is it possible to get a restraining order to keep a drug company away from young children?

I doubt it. But if we could, I would.

Some obvious candidates come to mind: Soda companies, tobacco manufacturers, sugary cereal sellers. But today the company you need to warn your kids about is Perdue Pharma.

You see, Perdue has a plan that could make it easier for doctors to use a highly addictive drug on very young patients.

This is a travesty! Children don’t even NEED this powerful drug that packs so much potential danger. But if Perdue executives get their way, the company will make a cool billion and more.

Out of the reach

Perdue Pharma doesn’t have the household-name status of Merck or Pfizer. But Perdue’s blockbuster drug does.

It’s OxyContin — the notoriously addictive painkiller.

Nicknamed “hillbilly heroin,” it’s a potent, widely abused opioid. And that abuse takes a deadly toll. Cocaine and heroin overdoses combined don’t come close to the thousands of yearly overdoses linked to prescription painkillers.

OxyContin made nearly $3 billion in sales last year. But just nine months from now, that gravy train will grind to a halt when the drug’s patent expires.

Of course, Perdue executives don’t want to say goodbye to all that. Not yet. That’s why they’ve begun a trial that’s testing OxyContin in children as young as six. That’s right, they’re giving this powerful opioid to first-graders!

As I’ve mentioned before, drug-makers can extend a drug’s patent by six months if they mount a trial to study the drug in children. For some drugs, these studies provide useful data for pediatricians. But for a drug like OxyContin, this trial sure looks like nothing more than a patent-extending business strategy.

Kids simply don’t need OxyContin. There are other painkillers available that aren’t as addictive. These alternatives, such as methadone, have their problems. But when it comes to addiction dangers, OxyContin leads the pack.

Even so, Perdue’s trial goes forward. But that doesn’t mean the FDA will grant the patent extension. My fear is that if the patent does get a boost, then pediatricians will view OxyContin as a reasonable painkiller for kids.

And the math is pretty simple here. As more kids use it, addiction rates in school-age kids will likely rise. I can almost guarantee it.

I hope that when the FDA and pediatricians consider OxyContin use in kids, they’ll follow the very smart advice in the drug’s own prescribing instructions…

“Keep OxyContin in a secure place out of the reach of children.”


“Little Addicts? Purdue Test OxyContin On Kids” Ed Silverman, Pharmalot, 7/3/12,

Get urgent health alerts, warnings and insights delivered straight to your inbox