Oxycodone: Law and order
Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 2:41 pm
In February 2002, a Florida physician was convicted of manslaughter for prescribing OxyContin to four patients who died after overdosing on the powerful drug. He is believed to be the first doctor ever convicted in the death of patients whose deaths were related to Oxycontin use.
During the trial, it was revealed that the physician prescribed more OxyContin than any other doctor in the state of Florida. Prosecutors in the case accused the physician of running an illegal “pill mill” in which OxyContin prescriptions were given to anyone, including known drug dealers, who paid an office visit fee.
In addition to the manslaughter counts, the physician was also convicted of one count of racketeering and five counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. Although the problem is not unique to Florida, another doctor in that state was scheduled to face trial in 2002 for the death of a 21-year-old patient who died of an OxyContin overdose. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty in that case.
This controversy has created difficulties for patients who rely on OxyContin for pain relief and for the doctors who prescribe it.
Selling OxyContin prescriptions has become big business. According to a report from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), one 40-mg pill costs about $4 by prescription, but the same pill can go for $20 to $40 on the street, depending on the area of the country. This led to some people in economically depressed areas selling their legitimate prescriptions for profit. In West Virginia, OxyContin earned the nicknames “hillbilly heroin” and “poor man’s heroin,” as abuse of the drug — and crime related to its use — increased rapidly among residents of Appalachia, historically one of the poorest areas of the country.
Robberies and prescription forging, as well as the activities of unscrupulous doctors seeking to make big profits, also contributed substantially to the problem of OxyContin abuse. From early 2000 through the summer of 2001, at least 700 thefts from pharmacies involving OxyContin were reported, according to the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control. States with the highest rates of OxyContin-related theft included Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and Kentucky. Other states that reported a high number of OxyContin crimes included Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, and California.