No OxyContin for your kids? No problem, said the FDA this week when it approved the use of the notorious narcotic as a painkiller for children in certain medical circumstances. According to a report published on Friday by USA Today, the FDA went to Oxy producer Purdue Pharma to ask for a suitable option for 11- to 16-year-old children who are dealing with pain “caused by cancer, trauma or major surgery.”
Sharon Hertz, a physician with the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation Research, offered on the agency’s website explanations for the curious decision to allow prescriptions of the highly addictive painkiller to be given to teens and children.
Hertz was quoted as saying that part of the reasoning behind the decision to allow OxyContin prescriptions is that no real painkilling solutions exist for children or teens who need “daily, round-the-clock” pain relief over a long period of time.
Reporter Liz Szabo’s story took a turn for the peculiar when she hinted that the medication is the type of drug to be given to children who are “at the end of life,” among other stages of severe illness.
Doctors who treat pediatric cancer patients hailed the approval as a way to ease children’s suffering. Children at the end of life aren’t at risk of addiction.
In Hertz’ FDA interview, she noted that doctors have been giving opioids to pediatric patients but have had to base their dosage prescriptions on “adult clinical data” to decide how to incorporate opiods into their care program.
I must stress that this program was not intended to expand or otherwise change the pattern of use of extended-release opioids in pediatric patients.
Hertz’ also said that OxyContin will only be prescribed if pediatric patients have already received opioids for severe-pain management.
Naturally, The Huffington Post reported that there are those in the medical community who worry that the “approval might lead to drug misuse among children.”
Purdue Pharma, reporter Erin Shumaker pointed out, saw three of its executives plead guilty in 2007 to misleading doctors and regulators about the drug’s addiction risk.
The popularity of the drug has led some experts to believe drugs like OxyContin have made patients more susceptible to heroin addiction.