KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Endo International agreed to voluntarily stop selling Opana ER, even thought the company believes it is safe when used as intended. Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration asked the company to stop selling the drug, saying it was too risky.
This drug was re-formulated in 2012 with the aim of making it harder to abuse. The FDA said it has seen a shift in how people use Opana to get high by injecting it rather than snorting it. Regulators linked that shift to a serious outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis C.
Opana is an opioid twice as strong as Oxycodone. It is the first opioid drug the FDA has sought to remove from the market because of abuse.
“I have seen a lot of patients who have been abusing it, either snorting it or crushing it,” said Dr. Brooke Estes, a family nurse practitioner.
Dr. Estes works at Westbrook Medical Center, which is also an addiction treatment facility.
“On any given day, if I am seeing 10 patients who I am treating for drug addiction, I may be seeing five of those specific to Opana,” she said.
She primarily prescribed Opana to cancer patients or people with long-term chronic pain.
“It’s not a bad drug. It’s just unfortunate that, you know, people who abuse drugs are making it bad for everybody else,” said Dr. Estes.
“We do have a significant number that are going to have to change their thought process on what type of medications we can use for them,” said Dr. James Choo.
Dr. Choo is a board certified pain doctor at Pain Consultants of East Tennessee. He said there are many other ways for those patients to treat pain.
“Often times there are psychological interventions, physical therapy, and occupational therapy that can be helpful,” he said.
“That’s the answer, not seek out something to replace it,” said Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch.
Chief Rausch said Opana is a prevalent drug officers see. He strongly approved the decision to remove it.
“It’s one less drug that will be used so it’s clearly going to have an impact,” he said.
Chief Rausch said any drug that can not be modified to prevent abuse should be pulled from the market.
Dr. Estes said prescribing Opana is a last resort. Since that drug is not available, she said she can switch her patients originally on it to the generic equivalent. She said there can always be a chance that someone can find a way to abuse that drug as well.