Recent FDA Approval Adds to Prescription Drug Abuse Debate

In August, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of OxyContin in treating certain pediatric patients, a measure that has touched off a debate as to whether the action will lead to an increase in opioid misuse and abuse throughout the U.S. – already a growing problem nationwide. Labeling under the FDA approval specifies that OxyContin should be used for children 11 or older who have already been on an opioid for a minimum of five days.

Proponents stress the drug’s efficacy in treating patients experiencing severe pain stemming from cancer or spinal-fusion surgery. Dr. Kathleen A. Neville, a pediatric oncologist with Arkansas Children’s Hospital who regularly treats children suffering from pain due to cancer and sickle cell anemia, supports the FDA approval and says it is “our obligation to have the best level of evidence for its use in children. Just because OxyContin has been abused or prescribed inappropriately doesn’t mean we should deprive the children who need the drug,” she says.

Opponents of the FDA approval point to the possibility of addicted parents using their children to obtain the drug, as well as the fact that no independent advisory committee was organized by the agency to research the topic and consult with industry experts.

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