From Publishers Weekly
Investigative reporter Meier explores the troubling issues raised by the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin, which touched off what many saw as an epidemic of addiction and crime, especially in Appalachia, where the drug became known as "hillbilly heroin.". At one level, Meier's story is a public health quandary pitting the interests of patients and their advocates in the "pain management movement"-which urges the increased use of strong opiates like OxyContin to help cancer patients and other victims of chronic pain-against the irrepressible urge of bored teenagers to abuse anything that will get them high. But it's also a cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of the profit motive on medicine. According to Meier, Purdue, the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, touted it as a less addictive alternative to other formulations, then dragged its feet on restricting the drug when reports of addiction and illicit dealing began to come in-sometimes from its own salespeople. Meanwhile, Purdue launched a massive promotional campaign, complete with lavish ads, company-sponsored medical associations and physician-spokesmen, to convince doctors to prescribe OxyContin even for minor bouts of pain, thus fueling the drug's availability on the street. Meier combines a well-researched account of the medical controversy surrounding OxyContin with affecting reportage on one of its victims, a high school cheerleader whose life went into a tailspin once she encountered the drug. His book is an absorbing indictment of the modern health-care marketing industry, which, as depicted here, has blurred the line between medical "education" and shilling.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Inside Flap
OxyContin, a potent painkiller containing opium-derived oxycodone as its key active ingredient, was first sold in 1996 as a treatment for cancer patients and other chronic pain sufferers. From the start, the drug's manufacturer aggressively marketed its patented time-release formula as a breakthrough in the effort to reduce prescription drug abuse. It wasn't long, however, before thrill-seeking teenagers shattered that illusion of safety; by simply crushing an "Oxy," they were able to tap into a high so seductive it would come to dominate their lives. Some patients, seeking relief from pain, also found themselves drawn to the drug's dark side. Pain Killer
takes readers on a journey of discovery that begins with the true story of Lindsay, a high-school cheerleader in Virginia who gets hooked on Oxys, and expands outward to explore the critical issues of legitimate pain management, prescription drug abuse, and how the misuse of science by the drug industry threatens the public good. With the fast-rising abuse of prescription drugs by young people ringing alarm bells within government, the how and why behind the OxyContin disaster is a gripping read not only for parents, but also for medical professionals, community leaders, business executives, and all those concerned with this crisis.
The dangers described in Pain Killer
also reverberate far beyond the threat from a single drug at a particular moment in time. The focus of our government's war on drugs has clearly misled many of us into thinking that only illegal drugs smuggled from beyond our borders can be abused. As Meier tells the dramatic story, some of the most deadly substances are produced and sold legally right here at home. Barry Meier
is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated investigative reporter for the New York Times and a 2002 recipient of a George Polk Award for outstanding journalism. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.
Jacket design by Christopher Rhoads