Critics of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to approve use of OxyContin in certain children as young as 11 say the move could increase painkiller abuse, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Some elected officials and addiction specialists say the decision could increase access to OxyContin, which in turn could contribute to the epidemic of addiction to painkillers and heroin. “When we make it easier for kids to get this stuff, we are sentencing ourselves to more opiate addiction and more misery for America,” Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin told the newspaper.
Supporters of the FDA’s decision say it will help children suffering with pain from cancer and other serious diseases. Chris Feudtner, an attending physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said OxyContin “can be an incredibly important treatment for children who are in severe chronic pain.”
The FDA approved OxyContin for children as young as 11 who need “daily, round-the-clock, long-term” pain relief that cannot be adequately treated with other medications.
The FDA has said it does not intend to expand the use of opioids in children, but wants to give doctors better guidelines about how to use the drug safely in children.
Many doctors already prescribe OxyContin and other opioid painkillers “off label” to children with cancer, or who have undergone surgery or other trauma, the FDA noted. Once a drug is approved by the FDA, doctors can prescribe it “off label” to unapproved age groups or for unapproved conditions.
The FDA asked the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, to perform studies that evaluated the safety and effectiveness of the drug in children. FDA officials said the results supported the use of OxyContin in limited situations, such as pain that could not be effectively treated with other medications.