NEWS RELEASE
Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.


March 1, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

ATTORNEY GENERAL MEETS WITH OTHER ATTORNEYS GENERAL AND DRUG MANUFACTURER TO ADDRESS CONCERNS OVER ABUSE OF PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION

Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced that he and the Attorney Generals of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio held a meeting in Richmond, Virginia, earlier today with the maker of OxyContin, a prescription pain killer, to explore ways the manufacturer can assist law enforcement in addressing the marked increase in the abuse of the prescription drug. The Attorneys General also discussed ways to coordinate information and share knowledge in addressing the problem.

OxyContin is a prescription pain killer manufactured by Purdue Pharma of Norwalk, Connecticut. The active ingredient in OxyContin is oxycodone hydrochloride, a central nervous system depressant. Typically the drug is prescribed to people with severe chronic pain. However, when abused, it can lead to overdoses.

The misuse and abuse of this drug is a significant problem in neighboring states. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center of the U.S. Department of Justice, the illegal diversion, distribution and abuse of oxycodone products, particularly Oxycontin, appears to be most heavily concentrated in the eastern United States. "We want to be proactive here in Maryland so we are prepared to address this growing problem," Curran stated.

The Office of the Attorney General wants to educate doctors and pharmacists about the increasing problem and the many methods people use to obtain the drug illegally. While there have been reports of people breaking into pharmacies, often times, individuals fraudulently obtaining prescription from doctors. Others simply forge prescriptions and then present them at a local pharmacy. One of the problems is that the drug is relatively inexpensive for individuals to obtain since it is covered by many insurance plans as well as Medicaid. Thus, many of the fraudulent prescriptions are being paid for by the Medicaid program and other insurance providers.

"In addition to the societal costs relating to the abuse of this drug, we are all paying for it through the increased healthcare costs due to fraud. We are actively looking into the circumstances surrounding the fraud and abuse related to this drug. Itís encouraging that the manufacturer is devoting time and resources to help law enforcement address the misuse of its product," Curran added.

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