Opana: how an “abuse deterrent” Opioid formula lead to unintentional outbreak of HIV

News Brief by Kanika Kamal


     When Endo Pharmaceuticals created a new abuse-proof outer coating on the strong painkiller opioid, Opana, they thought they had solved all of their problems. Little did they know that rather than deterring addicts from crushing and snorting the opioid, it lead to a craze of injecting the painkiller instead; a much faster and more dangerous way of abusing the drug. Since the launch of the reformulated pill, there have been 190 new HIV positive cases in Indiana, the largest outbreak in Indiana history, all because of Opana users sharing needles. This brings up the question of who is to blame; is it Endo Pharmaceutical’s fault that their reformulated Opana lead to even more dangerous outcomes than before?

     The FDA and CDC are claiming that “abuse deterrent” drugs, like Opana, will actually reduce the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. Yet, some are stating that the recent events with Opana may serve as a “cautionary tale” for the negative potential effects of these “abuse deterrent” drugs. In Endo’s defense, their intentions for changing the outer-coating to be crushproof had good intentions. Opana is twice as powerful as Oxycontin, and was heavily abused around the country, leading to many overdose deaths. Despite the public health concerns, however, the company's main motivation for reformulation was the fear of losing revenue or losing out to generic competition on their most profitable drug. So, Endo set out to create a plan to maintain their profits and block out competitors. Dr. Lembke of Standard University Medical Center commented that this is not the first time that pharmaceutical companies have rebranded their drug design so they could charge more money for it. The US has been dealing with pharmaceutical company corruption for years, but given this case, the question we all need to ask ourselves is have they gone too far?



Harper, Jake, and Kelly McEvers. "How A Painkiller Designed To Deter Abuse  Helped Spark An HIV

Outbreak." NPR. NPR, 2016.