Officials warn about OxyContin going generic

Oxycontin tablets being dispensed in a pharmacy. (Jan.

Oxycontin tablets being dispensed in a pharmacy. (Jan. 12, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer Sunday became the latest public official to warn that a highly addictive pain pill going generic next month could become a bonanza for addicts and thieves.

When OxyContin becomes available in a new generic form in April, Schumer said, the pills, known as oxycodone, will lack the anti-abuse technology present in the brand-name form.

That technology, implemented in 2010, all but neutralizes the active ingredients in the drug when it is converted into a paste or gel when crushed, Schumer said. Crushing the pills is a common way addicts misuse them to inject or snort the drug.

"Unfortunately there are no such protections for the generic version, so addicts will be able to use the generic version far more easily," Schumer said. "Addicts will clamor for the generic version far more than they do for the branded prescription drug."

He warned that the lack of the technology would make the prescription drug's abuse "much, much worse" and encourage thieves to steal it.

A generic oxycodone is already available, but the new one will mirror the extended-release benefit of OxyContin that makes it attractive to drug abusers.

Schumer said his office is in talks about the issue with the nation's pharmaceutical regulator, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Earlier this month, a coalition of 48 state attorneys general wrote to the FDA urging the agency to require the anti-abuse measures.

"There is great concern in our law enforcement community that many nontamper-resistant products are available for abuse when only a few products have been formulated with tamper-resistant features," the letter said.

Representatives of the generic's manufacturers and the FDA could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday.

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