In 2010, Purdue Pharma released a new form of their blockbuster pain drug OxyContin that supposed to deter abuse. It was harder to crush up and snort or inject to get high.
Instead the new-formula Oxy seems to have led a lot of long-term abusers, already deep into the disease, to switch to heroin, and many thousands of them likely died from that drug. This according to a report from the RAND Corporation and the Wharton School.
Possibly 80% of the spike in heroin death since 2010 is due to reformulated Oxy, the report’s authors say.
The actual RAND/Wharton paper (“Supply-Side Drug Policy in the Presence of Substitutes: Evidence from the Introduction of Abuse-Deterrent Opioids”) is behind a paywall, but you can read Zach Siegel’s story on it here.
For context, here’s a Purdue Pharma ad from 1998 saying the addition rate among pain patients being treated by a doctor is “much less than one percent.”
While we’re at it, if you haven’t read Harriet Ryan’s series on Purdue, have a look.