Drug Maker Develops "Abuse-Resistant" Oxycontin

In response to the epidemic of opiate addiction, Purdue Phrama LP the maker of Oxycontin, has developed a new version of the powerful painkiller that’s “harder to abuse.” According to an AP article, the government will soon be examining this new incarnation of the drug and evaluating the manufacturer’s lofty claims. How could this drug be made “abuse-resistant?” Details, inside…

Oxycontin, essentially a synthetic opiate, was developed in 1996 and hailed as a breakthrough in painkillers. It was designed to be swallowed and digested over a period of 12 hours in order to keep a steady flow of medication available to pain sufferers. It wasn’t long before abusers discovered they could achieve a heroin-like high if the pills were crushed and snorted or prepared into an injectable solution.

The DEA found that the deaths from this class of drugs quintupled by 2001. Amidst the growing number of lawsuits and pressure by the FDA, Purdue Pharma developed an abuse-resistant version of the drug. The company has developed a plastic-like coating that is fused to the tablet making it difficult to crush. The coating is also designed to transform the pill into a “gelatinous mess” if the user tries to prepare it for injection. Purdue Pharma says the new pill dissolves just as effectively as the current pill when used properly.

From what we know about drug addicts, they are very resourceful when it comes to getting their drug. Dr. Bob Rappaport of the FDA wrote, “There is no perfect formulation that can resist all forms of tampering.” We are inclined to agree, Dr. Bob. While this new version may be a step in the right direction, we remain doubtful of its actual efficacy. However, there may be some very neat, white-linen wearing drug addicts who will be put off by a “gelatinous mess.” Who knows?

Oxycontin that’s harder to abuse? Fda debates new version [AP]
(Photo: freerangestock)


Edit Your Comment

  1. FreeMarketGravy says:

    It’s a good idea in theory, but I’m reminded of the old saying “when you build a better mousetrap, someone else builds a better mouse.”

    Drug addicts are surprisingly crafty when it comes to getting their fix.

  2. John Whorfin says:

    “We get vests.”

    “They get armor-piercing rounds.”

  3. Cerb says:

    There are ways of making drugs abuse resistant. One example is the opioid Diphenoxylate, which is used for diarrhea. To keep people from taking 30 pills, they added a small amount of atropine to each pill. If anyone were to attempt to get high off it they would be in for an experience they wouldn’t soon forget.

  4. Pro-Pain says:

    I have chronic back pain. I take this medicine to live. If this will deter fools from abusing this highly potent and addictive drug, I’m all for it.

  5. SkyeBlue says:

    Instead of going to the expense of having to develop a “abuse resistant” drug, the medical boards need to go after these doctors that prescribe outrageous amounts of these powerful painkillers (everything from methadone to oxycontin)to everyone with a “backache” that comes to see them. Even in the small town I live in we have had 2 kids I know of die from OD’ing on these drugs and literally almost everyone I have come across seems to be addicted to pain pills to some extent. It is so sad.

  6. newmarc says:

    Purdue executives are on record about 7 or 8 years ago- I believe testifying in front of congress- about how Oxycontin could not be abused due to it’s time release mechanism. This is just another way to show plausible deniability so they can keep producing their cash cow.

  7. Pro-Pain says:

    @SkyeBlue – you know all about the system. You MUST be a dr. RIGHT?

  8. Oy, didn’t science try to do this with Heroin and screwed up royally? It was supposed to be a less addictive form of Morphine….

    “From 1898 through to 1910 heroin was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough medicine for children.”

  9. dragonvpm says:

    @SkyeBlue: Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for drug addicts (especially those who abuse prescription drugs) to shop around for multiple doctors in order to have a steady stream of their drug of choice. Sometimes they’ll even fixate on the fact that it was prescribed by a doctor as justification that it’s ok to take what they do (conveniently forgetting that they lied to the doctor to get the drugs in the first place).

    Addicts can be an amazingly, and, at times, frighteningly resourceful bunch when it comes to getting their fix.

  10. chrisjames says:

    Scrape off the coating, or cut it in half and dig out the inside. Partially dissolve the coating with whatever liquid can do the job quickly, dry it off, then have at it. Harder to crush? I have a hammer that loves to be challenged.

    I wouldn’t know if any of that works, but I’m guessing the addicts are willing to make an effort.

  11. Cerb says:


    It’s ALWAYS the doctors fault right? It’s not the guy who shows up at the ER at 2am complaining of debilitating back pain? It’s not the woman who goes to 4 different doctors to get scripts for benzos. It’s not the person who has a legitimate rx for these drugs but sells them to make a little money, nor is it the fault of the kids who steal them from their parents and grandparents. NO, it’s the doctors fault!
    In fact, there isn’t much that isn’t our fault. A morbidly obese, smoker, whose baby is born with severe mental retardation? DOCTORS FAULT!!!!!
    Man who fails to take his cholesterol meds, eats like Sally Struthers at a buffet, smokes and drinks has an MI? DOCTORS FAULT.

    I honestly don’t know why I decided to practice medicine in a country where people blame you for everything and won’t take a damn bit of responsibility for anything that happens to them.

  12. savvy9999 says:

    Rush Limbaugh is going to be pissed.

  13. @Cerb: Aww… chin up, l’il camper… I don’t blame Docs.

  14. And I’m betting that “gelatinous mess” gets ya’ high as hell.

  15. alice_bunnie says:


    That just makes it difficult for people with chronic pain to get the actual drug because doctors are afraid that someone’s going to come after them for prescribing too much pain pills. Just ask my friend who does have chronic back pain! She’s always getting the run around from doctors who have to cover their butts so they don’t have the Feds busting down their door in a drug raid. :/

  16. alice_bunnie says:

    I hate it when my comments get eaten! This will probably double post…

    The doctors have to cover their butts from the feds because they have to be careful they’ll be accused of over prescribing.

    I have a friend who is actually has chronic pain, but she’s always getting the run around from her doctors over her pain pills (30 a month does NOT an addiction make).

    The doctors lose, the patients lose. If they make it harder for the addicts, even better. Why the flack?

  17. Pasketti says:

    @savvy9999: He’d be pissed if he could hear what we were saying.

  18. Pasketti says:

    @chrisjames: The story says that the plastic coating makes it more prone to break into large fragments than into a powder. Good thing there’s not a simple device that can crush things into powder. Oh wait.

    If the coating is embedded throughout the tablet, then the gelatinous mass might keep people from injecting it, but most addicts probably wouldn’t care about the possible embolism it could induce. Not sure what the effect would be if it was snorted.

    On the whole, it’s probably a good thing though.

  19. johnva says:


    Exactly. I personally think the government is already harassing doctors, especially pain management specialists, too much re: these pain meds. The DEA can and does investigate any doctor that prescribes too much of this stuff, even though it may just be a coincidence. As a result, many doctors are now reluctant to write a prescription for effective pain relief to patients who actually need it. This problem is not the doctors’ fault; it’s the fault of addicts and the DEA (and the larger failure of the War on Drugs).

  20. maevro says:

    You will never stop the abuse, coming from someone in recovery of opiates.

    They made generic OC that was ‘tamper resistant’ and it didn’t stop anyone.

  21. Red_Eye says:

    And the new deliver method allows them to extend their patent protection! Awesome its a win win, harder for addicts and their profits are bound to increase!

  22. oldgraygeek says:

    @Pro-Pain: Me too, brother. I take the stuff as prescribed: it changes the pain from my three torn disks from “horrific” to “barely tolerable.”
    Meanwhile, the clerks at the pharmacy look at me like an amateur abortionist every month when I fill the prescription… and I have to worry about getting jacked on the way to the car.

  23. Kajj says:

    Ok, so maybe it won’t work. Who’s got a better solution? Should doctors and pharmaceutical companies just stop trying to fight abuse?
    I haven’t seen anyone here demand that oxycontin be taken off the market. There is a legitimate use for it. Wouldn’t a technological solution to drug abuse be preferable to raids and shootouts?

  24. Scuba Steve says:

    Good news! It’s a suppository!

  25. johnva says:

    @Kajj: Yes, it would certainly be preferable if it could be done. I just don’t believe in any “solution” to an illegal drug problem that involves reducing access to the drug for non-abusers. Same goes for the pseudoephedrine being put behind the counter. I oppose that because I shouldn’t have to suffer and have my privacy invaded just because some people make meth. It’s not my problem that they are idiots.

  26. KIRZEN2007 says:

    Its not like most of these methods are a breakthrough, methods for making pain killers abuse resistant in this manner have been around for decades. A quiet troll through some of the boards about injectible drugs suggest that people watch for ‘certain’ pills because some of them are imbued with wax and other wonderful deliberate impurities, to make using heat to dissolve them a dangerous prospect. They ‘harden’ again when they cool, making injecting them difficult and dangerous.

    Trying to stop insulfation (snorting) is a little harder without impairing or alterring the drug’s active properties, but I’m not sure an ‘anti-crush’ coating will stand up to someone trying really hard to powderize it. A better bet would be something like the addition of silicates, something that disolves easily inside the stomach where there’s ample moisture and acid, but that would be next to impossible to get up your nose in any quantity.

    Addicts are always going to find a way around things though, the level of desperation is certainly there, and the level of information is higher than ever. Chances are the really interested parties are already thinking up ways around these protections.

  27. Phexerian says:

    @Cerb: yes atropine was added to keep people from abusing lomotil, however, one can still take it with a p-glyocoprotein inhibitor such as quinidine to still get the high. However, most drug addicts don’t know this because it requires another prescription to get but it can be done.

    …point being – you can find ways around it.

    From what I have seen, it is no one specific person’s fault. There are a handful of MDs who will give a patient about anything they want. However, there are also people who really do need their pain relievers but get their prescriptions stolen from other people. Usually from a kid or from the person picking up their prescriptions for them.

    @alphafemale: Yes heroin originally was meant to help overcome morphine addiction. But it also turned out bad. BTW it is still used in England medicinally but not in the US.

    As far as I am concerned, this is another method for the drug company to get another patent to make money off of a pain medicine. The trend now is to try and make medicine that is difficult to tamper with.

    Let’s take a look at Vyvanse from Shire pharmaceuticals. It is amphetamine connected to L-lysine which is an amino acid. It is marketed as being safer and more difficult to abuse. Shire tried to get it approved by the FDA is an UNCONTROLLED SUBSTANCE! AMPHETAMINES AS AN UNCONTROLLED SUBSTANCE!! However, anyone with basic organic chemistry knowledge can see very quickly that it takes just a strong acid or base to separate the lysine from the lisdexamfetamine and thus yield a potent narcotic.

    Therefore, I honestly believe these drugs are made just to make money. You know the drug Ambien CR or Coreg CR? Want to know what the CR stands for? CONTINUED REVENUE!

    All in all, drug seekers will ALWAYS find a way to extract the drug from its dosage form. Count on it. Designing drugs to combat it may sound good, but it is futile. (Think of piracy protection on DVDs, within first week it is always hacked but companies like blu-ray still use it as a selling point to beat out the other competition; in this case HD.)

    -3rd Year PharmD/MBA Candidate

  28. kallawm says:

    I’m with cerb, just put something in there that, in high enough doses, will make them think twice about abusing it again. That’s what they do with Vicodin. It has tylenol in it which, supposedly, in a high enough dose, would make you pretty sick.

    And don’t blame the doctors for the addicts, there’s plenty of more legitimate stuff to blame them for. My uncle went in for a routine endoscopy, only his doctor did some other procedure he hadn’t agreed to. They perfed his bowels and he died from sepsis a month later. All the while they were treating him for pancreatitis, which means they just didn’t feed him.

  29. ltlbbynthn says:

    this reminds me of the same thing they did for Ritalin back when I was in high school. Some kid I knew had a special pill that if you tried to crush it, it would turn to water. Big whoop.

  30. Phexerian says:

    @kallawm: The tylenol in Vicodin doesn’t make the person feel bad. It is there to help add to the pain relieving effect, but if a person takes over 4 grams (4000 milligrams) of tylenol via Vicodin a day, that can lead to liver failure.

    -3rd Year PharmD/MBA Candidate

  31. johnva says:

    @kallawm: They already did that – it’s called Percocet. Percocet is just oxycodone (same thing that is in Oxycontin) with “Tylenol” in it. I still don’t think that’s a very good solution, because I shouldn’t have to take another (potentially toxic) drug just because of addicts. Not everyone can take acetaminophen safely. Also, my understanding is that addicts can separate out most of the acetaminophen relatively easily anyway, getting it down to a level where it’s not too dangerous.

  32. johnva says:

    @Phexerian: When I broke my arm last year, they prescribed me Vicodin (the break was in a place where they couldn’t fully immobilize it, so it was pretty painful for a couple of weeks). I could barely even tell I had taken it as far as either side effects or pain relief. Since that didn’t work, they upgraded me the next day to Percocet. That worked a little better for the pain, but still not that well, and certainly didn’t produce any kind of “high”. I didn’t want to ask for a higher dose, since they had already questioned me suspiciously when I said the Vicodin didn’t work at all and wanted something stronger.

    This got me to thinking: are some people just naturally way less sensitive to opioid drugs? If so, how are doctors supposed to tell that apart from so-called “drug seeking behavior”?

  33. lesspopmorefizz says:

    Sadly, I believe that people who want to get high will find a way to do so– by whatever means necessary. You’ve heard about that thing where teenagers choke themselves to get a head rush, perhaps? Yeah. There will always be people out there who will do anything for a fix, and you just have to try and minimize it as best you can. And I truly believe most doctors try and do that.

  34. kbarrett says:


    Want to get addicted? Then become a registered addict, drop your rights down to felon status voluntarily, and go get your heroin at the drug store for $0.50 a dose.

    Commit ANY crime, you lose the privilege of buying your drugs legally for a year.

    Add the death penalty for selling the stuff to children, stick a fork in it, and call it done.

    If some adult moron wants to commit slow suicide, let him. My rights are more important to me than some idiot addict’s life.

  35. Vastarien202 says:

    For those who don’t know what Atropine does: a nasty suprise indeed.

    A common mnemonic used to describe the physiologic manifestations of atropine overdose is: “hot as a hare, blind as a bat, dry as a bone, red as a beet, and mad as a hatter”.

    Adverse reactions to atropine include ventricular fibrillation, supraventricular or ventricular tachycardia, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, loss of balance, dilated pupils, photophobia, and possibly, notably in the elderly, extreme confusion, extreme dissociative hallucinations, and excitation. These latter effects are due to the fact that atropine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Because of the hallucinogenic properties, some have used the drug recreationally, though this is very dangerous and often unpleasant.

  36. h0serdude says:

    @oldgraygeek: My fiance has (had) 3 torn discs and was on Oxycontin for a long time. She had a procedure that closed her discs a few years ago and had been relatively pain free until she fell last summer and re-tore one of them. She just had back surgery where they fused her at L5-S1 and she is getting back to her nearly pain free state. You should look into what kind of procedures they can do now days. Btw she is 28 so getting fused is huge, but she hasn’t lost any mobility.

  37. Cerb says:


    Wouldn’t adding Quinidine (a p450 inducer) just mean the opioid would be cleared faster? Pharm is not my strongsuit but I was under the impression that opioids were cleared via P450.


  38. kellsbells says:

    Can you imagine what a world of good it would do if addicts used their skills and determination to get a fix to, I don’t know, invent or explore or attempt to positively contribute to society?

  39. Buran says:

    @johnva: I don’t buy that stuff anymore because I have issues with being treated like a criminal just for being sick. I don’t care what that does to their profits. They obviously don’t want to make it easy to get their product when you have a legitimate need for it. Fine; their competition does, so they get my purchase.

  40. Trai_Dep says:

    …Somewhere in NYC, a fat man cowering behind a radio microphone sobs bitter tears. While his maid staff sighs, puts their shoes on and anticipates a very long night of pill-fetching.

  41. SkyeBlue says:

    That just makes it difficult for people with chronic pain to get the actual drug because doctors are afraid that someone’s going to come after them for prescribing too much pain pills. Just ask my friend who does have chronic back pain! She’s always getting the run around from doctors who have to cover their butts so they don’t have the Feds busting down their door in a drug raid. :/

    Not an hour ago a friend of mine just told me that her husband, who she has admitted to me is faking his back problem, just went in and had his meds “Upped” from just methadone to methadone and oxycontin. The doctor continues to give this man pain medicine even though he refuses ANY surgery or treatment to fix his “problem”. This has been going on for 4 years. Their 16 year old son just died back in January from an overdose of Methadone and Xanax! He was regularly stealing pills from his parents before he died. It is very prevalent, especailly in the area where I live for people to “doctor shop”, since we live not far from the AR/OK state line and no is the wiser. If so many people were not getting prescriptions for this pain medicine that they obviously don’t need then the streets wouln’t be saturated with it.

    We DEFINITELY need a nationwide, computerized system available to track who is getting what and where. It is the bad people that DO make it hard on the people who legitimately need pain medicine.

  42. wgrune says:


    Neither Vicodin or Percocet worked for me either. I was in a motorcycle accident and got no relief from either of them (even at a slightly higher does then reccomended). I am no doctor but it wouldnt surprise me if some types of painkillers just dont work for some people.

  43. chenry says:

    I remember some guys were developing a version of Oxycontin that included a pepper-additive, so that when you tried to crush and inhale the pill, you’d get a nose full of hot pepper.

  44. parad0x360 says:

    Whats to stop someone from taking a razor blade and just cutting or scrapping this cover off?

    If people want to get high let them. Who really cares? If they want to hurt their own bodies who am I or you to tell them to stop?

    Hell oxy abuse has less issues (aside from legal) then alcohol or smoking but those are both legal.

  45. louveciennes says:

    So then they’ll just move on to heroin, which is what most Oxy abusers eventually do anyway, because it’s cheaper and, many times, easier to obtain.

  46. phelander says:

    Someone should ask Rush Limpballs how he feels about it.

  47. wgrune says:


    Um, actually Oxy abusers exhibit similar addictive symptoms as heroin users (since Oxy is an opiate). I hardly think you can say Oxy abuse has less issues then alcohol or cigarette addiction. When was the last time your uncle robbed someone or stole and sold your playstation to buy a pack of Pall Malls?

  48. chemicalx9 says:


    yeah they are cleared via p450 usually 2d6 or 3a4. taking an inducer would speed up the clearance. to be honest i am not sure of his idea of a p-glycoprotein inhib to block the effects of atropine…though i got my pharm.d. a few years ago so i would have to research it.

  49. bouldr1 says:

    @ johnva
    Correct me if I am wrong, I thought oxycodone was just the generic for Vicodin.

    And for those that want Percocet but can’t have Tylenol just ask for Percodan which is the same base mixed with Motrin instead.

  50. bouldr1 says:


    Is this atropine the same stuff the give soldiers to inject themselves with in case of NCB attack?

  51. chemicalx9 says:

    there is such a system in place in a lot of states…they tried to put one in place here in Oregon last year…the ACLU shut that bill down which was a detriment to the medical profession.

  52. pigeonpenelope says:

    @parad0x360: you couldn’t be more wrong about having less issues. not only is it easier to come by, but it is harder to break the addiction than heroin. i know this because my dad was prescribed the stuff for 10 years and finally a doc tried to ween him off and he couldn’t do it without hospitalization. drug dogs can’t sniff the stuff out so it is easy to find on the street and it is easy for teeangers to get their hands on it. the scary part is that unlike cigarrettes or alcohol, it is super easy to o.d. and harder to treat. oxy addicts cannot simply stop cold turkey like alcohol or cigarrette users can (not that it is easy for them either). once you’re addicted to oxy (and it doesn’t take much), if you quit, you can die. if you stop smoking you’re irritable and antsy for a few days (and there’s patches). i understand alcohol to be a bit harder…. point being, oxy is not a small concern. it is quite dangerous, easily addicting, and very wide-spread.

  53. pigeonpenelope says:

    @SkyeBlue: i wish it was that easy. the problem is that chronic pain sufferers are prescribed the stuff to help them. my dad suffers from severe chronic pain due to a bad surgery and the docs prescribed him oxy for 10 years. if he had a non-addictive strong pain killer, he would have been better off. it will certainly help with street abuse but the folks who need pain killers simply to live day-to-day, are the ones who will benefit most.

  54. modenastradale says:

    Prohibiting the recreational use of drugs is one area where we shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer resources.

    Why should I care if my neighbor blasts away his boredom with a joint or a pain pill? I don’t. Why should I have to pay to prosecute him for it? I shouldn’t.

    I understand having FDA oversight of the basic safety of the design and manufacture of drugs. But when it comes to use, I think the risks of using an addictive drug are clear. The government should butt out.

  55. modenastradale says:

    @pigeonpenelope: Actually, I don’t believe that’s true. Narcotic painkillers have nasty, nasty withdrawal symptoms, but they’re very rarely fatal.

    However, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol can all have fatal withdrawal.

  56. alice_bunnie says:


    Whats to stop someone from taking a razor blade and just cutting or scrapping this cover off?

    It’s possibly not just a coating on the entire pill, but on the particles in the pill itself that stop the pill from being crushed into small enough particles that are snortable. And, that coating when you try to dilute those particles turns into a gelatinous substance so that you can’t inject it.

  57. Not Alvis says:

    Sounds VERY easy to get around – just dissolve ’em all and do some fractional distillation.

  58. zumdish says:

    @bouldr1: Vicodin is hydrocodone, not oxycodone.

  59. leftystrat says:

    My wife has chronic pain. What she has to go through to get her legitimately prescribed meds I would not wish on Dick Cheney.

    Of course her pain doc is very closely monitored by the feds. Heaven forbid he practices pain medicine by actually attempting to relieve it.

    More people die each year from internal bleeding due to OTC painkillers than from abusing Oxy, et al. Follow the money.

    Sorry, I don’t care how many people abuse it if it means helping people in pain. The fact is that if pain meds are properly prescribed, you don’t GET high from them – they help your pain.

    This is the only place we have seen any action in the war against drugs :(

  60. a_mama says:

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned yet…but when I was abusing Oxy, I licked it. I couldn’t snort the $#it because it all got stuck in my damn nose. Ta-da! Licking a line got me all the fun w/o the whole burning nose thing.

    I have a hard time believing any “anti-drug” attempt will have a true effect. I am in a unique situation, being a chronic pain sufferer (spinal issues), and an opiate lover. I suffer through my pain for most of the day so I can be mentally able to be there for my children, when I finally take my medication in a not approved manner I acheive a nearly orgasmic relief from pain. I am absolutely not harming anyone (except myself through most of the day). Unfortunately, I know for a fact that pot makes life tolerable, but I can’t get that legally. I would love to be able to smoke a dube a few times a day to relieve my pain without feeling so out of it, instead I abuse my med’s at the end of the day. The worst of it is that I don’t even enjoy the opiate high, I feel normal when I have had the pleasure of inhaling, and off in an itchy universe when I take my meds. The gov’t is ignoring a simple solution to a problem because of their own fuck-up-ery.

    /too paranoid to buy some damn weed.
    //wishes vic’s or perc’s would work instead

  61. LUV2CattleCall says:


    Amen…I take ADDerall and it’s a huge PITA to have to get a paper script every month – especially when I travel a ton.

    I think it’s Concerta that has something in it that mimics glass shards if you try to inhale it, seems rather effective.

    I’ve never done drugs, but I have to wonder what’s so bad about Oxy that would endanger society more than keeping it as an underground item.

  62. shikaningen says:

    At least this isn’t as despicable and in humane as what they were THINKING of adding to the pills as a deterrent to “abuse”. They were going to add capsaicin to the center or something so that if you took the pills normally you wouldn’t have any problems (in theory, but capsaicin gives me horrible burning effluence), but if you crushed and snorted them you’d find yourself in unimaginable pain due to capsaicin’s action on the sensitive mucous membranes.

    What’s with the whole anti-pleasure attitude in the U.S., by the way? “No, no! We musn’t let people feel good! That would be immoral. And… and… just truly insufferable!”

    You know, all human action seeks one thing: the maximization of happiness. When a person goes out to buy a car or an HDTV, etc… what they are seeking is the release of euphoric chemicals in the brain. The purchase of HDTVs, cars, computers, phones, videogames and other items is a terribly inefficient and expensive means of getting high, though. Why not remove the indirection and waste by simply using opiates and allowing others to use them? Sure there’s the problem of addiction, but I really believe that human beings have or should have the right to put whatever substance into their body, no matter how harmful, as long as they aren’t incurring risks that they haven’t agreed to take upon themselves and of which they aren’t aware.

  63. thaShady says:


    If drugs were legal, maybe they would have the time

  64. GamblesAC2 says:

    @alphafemale: *Whispers* Hey,Hey you want some Oxyjell 2 vials $100