How Long Does OxyContin Last?

By Pat Anson, Editor

The pain relieving effects of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma’s best-selling opioid painkiller, often wear off early and the company has been aware of the problem for many years, according to a lengthy investigation by the Los Angeles Times.

The Times investigation of OxyContin, which was based on court records and thousands of “confidential” Purdue documents, found that a single dose of the extended release painkiller often doesn’t last for the intended 12 hours and that it performs more like “an 8-hour drug.” That makes some patients take extra doses or stronger ones, raising the risk of abuse and addiction.

“Such results shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the FDA doesn’t require drugs to work as promised for all patients. What was eye-popping about The Times’ findings was how Purdue responded when doctors told them their patients weren’t getting the full 12 hours of relief promised,” The Times said in an editorial.

“Instead of recommending that such patients take OxyContin more than twice per day — which might make it less appealing than cheaper generic opioids with short durations — Purdue’s representatives told doctors to stick to the 12-hour regimen and prescribe higher-strength pills.”

Purdue quickly issued a statement rejecting The Times’ story, saying it was “short on facts.”

“In an attempt to resurrect a long-discredited theory, the paper ignores the clinical and regulatory data that directly contradicts their story,” Purdue said. “Over the course of two years, Purdue Pharma provided the LAT (Los Angeles Times) with more than a dozen hours of briefings and discussions regarding the clinical evidence supporting OxyContin’s 12-hour dosing and the regulatory requirement that we promote the product as such. Unfortunately, the paper disregarded this information, instead publishing a story that’s long on anecdote and short on facts.”

Purdue said the FDA rejected claims over a decade ago that OxyContin was misbranded as a “twice-a-day” drug and was being prescribed inappropriately.

The Times published its own rebuttal to Purdue’s statement online, which you can see by clicking here.

Pain News Network asked readers what they thought about OxyContin’s pain relieving qualities and got a mixed response.

“Worked like a dream for me, but too expensive,” wrote one patient on our Facebook page, who said she switched to generic oxycodone.

“Doesn't start working for 3 hrs. Seems like it ends at the 9th hour. Not really happy about that, but what can you do?” wrote another patient, who said she had too many side-effects from other pain medications.

“It only lasted 5-6 hours for me. Stopped taking it years ago because it was ineffective,” said another pain patient.

Since its introduction in 1996, OxyContin has reportedly generated over $31 billion in revenue for Purdue, but it also created a tainted legacy that the company is still trying to shed two decades later. Many believe OxyContin helped spark the so-called opioid “epidemic” because its sales reps initially told doctors the drug had a low risk of abuse and addiction.

In 2007, a class action lawsuit against Purdue for deceptive marketing ended with several company executives pleading guilty to a felony count of misbranding OxyContin. The company and its executives were fined $634 million.

In 2010, Purdue introduced an abuse-deterrent formula of OxyContin that makes it harder for drug abusers to crush or liquefy the tablet for snorting or injecting. Some patients have complained the new formulation isn't as effective or causes gastrointestinal problems.