The FDA recently approved the use of OxyContin for kids, making it the first opioid-based painkiller approved for juvenile patients. The only other painkiller that is currently approved for use in children is the duragesic patch, also called fentanyl, which passes opioids through the skin. While some are applauding the FDA’s efforts at eliminating pain in this younger age group, others are questioning whether prescribing OxyContin to such young children will cause an explosion of addictions.
Restrictions on OxyContin for Kids
With the FDA’s approval of OxyContin for kids comes a set of limitations specifically for treating children with this powerful painkiller. For one, doctors can only prescribe it to children who are between the ages of 11 and 16. The FDA hasn’t approved it for use in those under the age of 11. Additionally, physicians can only prescribe OxyContin to children who have shown a tolerance to 20 milligrams of oxycodone, which is the active ingredient in OxyContin.
The FDA’s stance comes from the relatively few pain relieving options that are currently available to children. Specifically, the intent of approving OxyContin for kids was to provide pain relief options for children suffering from cancer, trauma or who are recovering from major surgery. They have called for physicians to only prescribe it to children who require constant around–the-clock pain relief.
While there is little doubt that the new prescribing regulations will benefit young cancer patients suffering from debilitating pain, concerns abound for children in other illness categories. One of the major concerns with prescribing OxyContin for kids is with regards to dosing. As very few painkillers are approved for use in children, physicians have had to estimate the proper dosage for them based on the current levels used for adults.
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Another major concern with prescribing OxyContin for kids is with regards to the massive number of adult addiction issues and overdoses that have been attributed to opiate-based painkillers in the last 10 years. In fact, the FDA removed the original formulation of OxyContin off of the market soon after its release due to its highly addictive nature. The drug company reformulated it again in 2010 to make it harder to crush, snort or inject as many abusers tend to do.
Given the past problems with curbing the addiction problem, questions have arisen as to how the medical community plans to prevent these same issues from occurring in children. This is particularly concerning because of the fact that children’s understanding of consequences in general has not yet fully developed. Prescribing them an opiate will act as a numbing device to ease social pressures, fears and insecurities. Thus, it is easy to postulate that unless they highly regulate OxyContin prescriptions, children will flock to the drug in droves as a legal way to eliminate emotional pain as well as physical pain. In fact, studies show that about one in every 25 high school seniors has already abused OxyContin at some point.
We Need Additional Regulations
The Waismann Method ® physicians do understand the medical need to alleviate pain in children, just as we fully support the elimination of pain in adults. However, we urge the FDA and other medical regulatory agencies to enact very strict rules to protect our children from the life threatening harm that these drugs can pose. Specifically, the FDA should appoint an advisory panel to re-examine the risks and benefits of prescribing OxyContin for kids. Additionally, the FDA should impse strict prescribing regulations for adolescent OxyContin use to prevent addiction and other harmful side effects from occurring in children.