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Another Celebrity Prescription Drug Death: Another Notch on the OxyContin Gun

Everywhere we turn in the dark, murky world of illegally obtained prescription drugs and sudden, unexpected deaths, one drug seems always to be at the head of the list these days: OxyContin.

And the ongoing investigation into the sudden death of actor Corey Haim in Los Angeles last week is no exception.

OxyContin Abuse

OxyContin, possibly the most abused and most dangerous prescription pain killer around, was the only one mentioned specifically by name by the California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is involved personally in the investigation.

“We know that Corey Haim used a lot of legal drugs, shopped a lot of doctors and went to a lot of pharmacies and, at least in one instance, got OxyContin from an illegal syndicate,” Brown said, adding that the former child star procured OxyContin from an illegal source.

Illegal Prescription Drug Ring

Corey Haim’s death is now linked to a huge, and immensely profitable, illegal prescription drug ring in Southern California, Brown told the media. In a statement released Friday, the AG called prescription drug rings a “serious health problem” and said Haim’s death is the latest of many examples of why a crackdown is needed.

The prescription drug ring operates by printing counterfeit prescription pads in the names of real doctors’, who have no idea of the fraud being perpetrated in their names. The fake prescription forms are sold to addicts and dealers, who use them to fill bogus prescriptions.

“They can go to one pharmacy after another and get tens of thousands of pills and now you’re talking a multimillion-dollar scam,” Brown said. He added that 4,500 to 5,000 illegal prescriptions have been uncovered so far.

Will Computerized Prescription Drug Monitoring Help?

It has been suggested that only states with fully-functioning, state-wide computerized prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) tying all pharmacies and physicians into a centralized database have any chance of stemming the tide of illegal prescriptions.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control, as of January 2010, only 34 states have operational PDMPs that have the capacity to receive and distribute controlled substance prescription information to authorized users.

States with operational Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs include:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Five states (Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Oregon, and New Jersey) and one U.S. territory (Guam) have enacted legislation to establish a PDMP, but are not fully operational.

Five other states are in the process of proposing, preparing, or considering PDMP legislation: Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Montana and Wisconsin.

In Spite of PDMPs, OxyContin Continues to Takes Its Toll on Celebrities and Others

Prescription drugs have been directly involved in the deaths, injuries and countless trips to drug detox and rehab for numerous entertainment and sports celebrities in recent years.

All across the country, OxyContin and the other deadly prescription drugs continue to take their toll, regardless of PDMPs, or celebrity status.

And in spite of California’s functioning PDMP, Corey Haim is only the latest victim in the news concerning celebrity addictions and deaths in that state.

The problem is that the vast majority of the victims of OxyContin and related drugs do not involve celebrities or prescription fraud. They concern ordinary people following their doctors’ prescriptions to the letter who nevertheless end up addicted and far too often, end up dead.

Prescription Drug Scams

Prescription drug scams similar to the one in California are taking place across America. Law enforcement officials say the numbers of bogus prescriptions must be in the hundreds of thousands.

While PDMPs are making some inroads in reducing drug crime, they are not a panacea, and at best will be only part of what will be a difficult and long-term solution to prescription drug abuse and prescription drug crime.

If OxyContin Didn’t Kill Haim, Prescription Drugs Played a Role

Autopsy results have yet to be released, but insiders are suggesting that a prescription drug cocktail of some kind played a role in the death of Corey Haim.

His agent said Haim had been working on his addiction problems with a doctor and that Haim told him two weeks before he died that he was drug-free. But the agent also said Haim’s mother told him that an addiction specialist treating her son had given him four drugs and, she believed, a reaction to the medications may have caused his death.

The prescriptions found in Haim’s name in his mother’s apartment contained serious drugs, California AG Brown said. And Haim’s name came up on multiple prescriptions in the state’s system.

“My hunch is he was using massive amounts of these drugs,” Brown said. “He had dozens of doctors, many, many prescriptions, using many, many pharmacies, more than a dozen.”

Clearly, any real solution to prescription drug abuse and prescription drug crime is going to have to include severe limitations on prescriptions for the dangerous drugs such as OxyContin—or even better, the outright banning of such drugs.


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