Pain drug prescriptions skyrocket

Use of prescription pain pills has skyrocketed over the past several years, according to a government study. Sales of the five biggest painkillers--codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and meperidine--jumped by 90 percent between 1997 and 2005. But it's oxycodone (OxyContin) that's responsible for much of that growth; sales of that compound grew almost six-fold during the same period. OxyContin is made by Perdue Pharma; the next-leading drug, hydrocodone/Vicodin, is made by Abbott Laboratories. Both drugs have generic competitors sold under different trade names as well.

The study was undertaken by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which was looking for illegal prescription patterns. But according to the Associated Press, the growth in painkiller use has some perfectly legal reasons behind it. The population is getting older, and older people use more pain medication. Drug marketing has spurred more patients to seek pain relief. And whereas doctors once considered pain to be part of healing, now it's pain management that's seen as key to overcoming illness.

- read the report from The Washington Post

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