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Pain Killer: A "Wonder" Drug's Trail of Addiction and Death Hardcover – October 17, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-1579546380 ISBN-10: 1579546382 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; 1 edition (October 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579546382
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579546380
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #904,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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

Pain Killer

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

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jessica A. Sharer on December 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Myself being an abuser of OxyContin back in 2001, which eventually led to heroin addiction due to many pharmacy burglaries and stick-ups, the drug started to get a bad rap, and doctors took people off of it and the cost became insane, up to $0.75 a mg. I can honestly say that about 95% of the addicts I have encountered during my addiction started w/ OxyContin, then moved on to much cheaper, and more readily available, heroin. On the other hand, I understand that it is a wonder drug for people in end-stage cancer, and other very painful conditions, and I don't think it should be taken off the market. However, when my friends and I raided my parents medicine cabinet (my dad was prescribed 40mg of OxyContin for laparscopic surgery on his knee, which is the equivalent of EIGHT Percocets.) When I read this book, I was shocked to see how much money Purdue Pharma put into marketing this drug. Offering free cruises and cash incentives to MD's who wrote a lot of prescriptions, and touting it as a 'wonder drug' for moderate to severe pain patients. The only difference between it and Percocets is that Percocets have to be taken every 4 hours or so, Oxycontin every 12. Also, there are no additives to OxyContin other than the wax filler, the pills are pure Oxycodone, no Acetaminophen or Aspirin (which is good for people with allergies or sensitive stomachs, or chronic pain patients who are prescribed to take 3-4 Percocets every 4-6 hours, eventually the high volume of APAP is going to wreak havok on your liver.) But as you do in every profession, shady doctors over-prescribed the drug (I had a friend who broke her tailbone, a doctor prescribed her 240 40mg Oxys. The normal amount would be 60.Read more ›
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Bucky VINE VOICE on January 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pain Killer is an interesting book in that it describes the circumstances surrounding the rise in Oxycontin abuse, particularly among America's rural poor, but it tends to be a bit one-sided and heavy handed in casting Purdue and its employees as heartless villians in this story. There can be no doubt that Oxy abuse has led to heartbreak for addicts and their families all across this country. And Purdue probably did emphasize too much its use for the treatment of moderate pain that would be just as well treated by other drugs with less potential for abuse.
But at the same time, this book practically ignores the countless numbers of patients whose intractable suffering has been eased by proper use of Oxycontin. Their stories are not told, their voices are silent, their suffering is unacknowledged. As much sympathy as I have for the addicts in this book, I would venture to say that the large majority of them never had to get involved with snorting or shooting up Oxy. But chronic pain suffers and those in the end stages of terminal diseases don't have the option of saying no to pain. I'd bet if you talked to them, Purdue and its employees are heroes, not villians. I would have liked to have heard some of their stories.
My other dissatisfaction with this book is that basically it is little better than an Atlantic or Harper's magazine article padded out to book length (with a larger font and lots of white space to increase the page count). There is a lot of repetitive info in here, and many times, the chronology of events gets a bit confusing. Sometimes, I had the feeling I was just re-reading the same 40 or so pages over and over. At some points, I just skimmed.
The story of Oxycontin and its abuse is definitely a cautionary tale, but I would have liked to have had both sides of the story.
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35 of 46 people found the following review helpful By KO on January 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have read and heard so many negative things about Oxycontin that I can't keep silent about this any longer! I am a chronic pain patient who was on Oxycontin for many years. I also participated in one of their early drug trials for chronic pain, so I have personally contributed input to Purdue about how this medicine affected my body and mind. It was truly a lifesaver for me at the time, as it allowed me to return to work on a full-time basis. (When I say full-time, I REALLY mean FULL-TIME! I had two full-time 40 hr./week jobs plus I designed a bi-monthly magazine on a free-lance basis. I have several inoperable conditions which cause me to suffer constant, intractable pain on a daily basis.

I tried all natural alternatives such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, meditation, herbal diets and others for several years before finally applying to Purdue's clinical trial for chronic back pain, in which Oxycontin was being used for pain relief. By the time I started the trial I could hardly sit in my office chair for more than 15 minutes. I had tried other medications new to the market at the time including Trazadone, which put my heart into severe arrhythmia for days after taking only one dose. Other drugs had intolerable side effects; Oxycontin did not. Instead, I received a steady dosage of pain relief medication which did not make me 'high', sleepy nor nauseated. I was overjoyed to have my quality of life returned to me!

After being in the 3-year clinical trial for a year and a half, I was told that the trial was being suddenly halted due to the bad press that Oxycontin was receiving.
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