Oxycodone is an opium derivative similar to codeine but more powerful and more likely to be addictive.

Oxycodone is highly addictive and gives a heroin-like rush which is released when pills are crushed or chewed. Many pain patients become dependent on the drug for more than pain relief and find themselves with a full scale addition that has led to severe and damaging consequences.

Oxycodone is one of several Opium derivatives available by prescription. It is a high potency pain reliever. Oxycodone (Oxycontin) is formulated by Purdue Pharma of Stamford Ct. as a 12 hour time release pill for cancer patients and others suffering from chronic pain. It has been called the miracle drug.

Oxycodone is an ingredient in the prescription drugs, Percocet, Percodan and Tylox, in much weaker strengths than Oxycodone. Oxycodone has been around for decades and taken by millions of people for post surgical pain, broken bones, arthritis, migraines and back pain. While Percocet and Percodan have about five milligrams of Oxycodone, Oxycodone tablets contain Oxycodone in amounts of 10,20, 40 and 80 milligrams.

Lawsuits are Being Filed

Purdue Pharma is facing more than a dozen lawsuits from patients, claiming they have become addicted to the painkiller, and others blaming the company for abusers' overdoses and deaths because of the company's failure to distribute adequate warnings.

A plaintiffs group in Washington, D.C., has filed a $5.2 billion lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP and Abbott Laboratories Inc. charging the drug companies with allegedly failing to warn patients the painkiller Oxycodone is dangerously addictive.

The suit was filed by seven people who are former addicts or relatives of addicts, the suit charges the companies with aggressively marketing the drug without warning of the risks. The plaintiffs are also seeking class action status.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue manufactures Oxycodone, while Abbott co-markets the drug, a painkiller intended for use by terminal cancer patients and chronic pain sufferers. Allegations have surfaced that the drug has been linked to numerous deaths.

Purdue in May said it had met with officials from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration because of the agency's concerns about its illegal diversion and abuse. Purdue Pharma around the same time said it tried to reduce abuse of the prescription drug through several actions including halting distribution of the drug in 160 mg tablets, its highest-strength dosage.

According to the lawsuit, defendants ``made misrepresentations or failed to adequately and sufficiently warn individuals regarding the appropriate uses, risks and safety of Oxycodone.'' It contends Oxycodone's sales, which exceeded $1 billion in the United States in 2000, were the result of an ``aggressive marketing strategy'' to physicians, pharmacists and patients that, ``misrepresented the appropriate uses of Oxycodone and failed to adequately disclose and discuss the safety issues and possible adverse effects of Oxycodone use.''

Specifically, the suit quotes a May 2000 U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning letter to Purdue Pharma ordering the company to cease use of an advertisement for the drug that appeared in a medical journal. The suit quotes a section from the warning letter that suggests the advertisement inaccurately represents the drug as a first-line treatment for osteoarthritis. ``As a result of drug company defendants' inappropriate marketing of Oxycodone, the drug has been inappropriately prescribed and used, unnecessarily putting people at risk of addiction to Oxycodone,'' the suit alleges.

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