When you think of someone misusing an opioid prescription, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? OxyContin? Percocet? Maybe Vicodin? How about Opana? Opana is a prescription opioid pain reliever that contains the active ingredient oxymorphone. Oxymorphone is a semi-synthetic opioid agonist. A semi-synthetic opioid is not a naturally occurring substance, and it’s not an opiate – meaning it isn’t derived from opium – but it does have similar chemical structures to opiates and opioids. An agonist is a drug that activates opioid receptors in the brain. Opana is meant for moderate to severe pain that needs daily, around the clock treatment. Its street names include ‘The O Bomb,’ ‘Blue Heaven,’ and ‘Mrs. O.’
Opana comes in an extended release (ER) version, meaning it’s meant to slowly release a certain amount of drugs into the body over a period of time so that the patient doesn’t have to take multiple pills. Extended release pills are theoretically harder to abuse, but in reality, people simply crush them up and snort or inject them so that they get all the effects at once.
Opana has an interesting history. In 2012, in response to the opioid epidemic, the extended release version of the medication was pulled from the shelves by the manufacturer, Endo Pharmaceuticals, who said it was susceptible to abuse. They even – unsuccessfully – sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that year to prevent the approval of any generic version of its drug, claiming that a generic would have the same potential for abuse. Before this old ER version was discontinued, Endo came up with a “new” formula, although it still had the same active ingredient and was still called Opana ER. The difference? The new formula had a few different inactive ingredients, like a hard coating that made the pills harder to crush. Endo claimed that this new version with its hard exterior could deter abuse. The FDA disagreed.
In 2017, the FDA asked Endo Pharmaceuticals to remove reformulated Opana ER from the market because the benefits didn’t outweigh the risks. Drug users had figured out how to cook it and inject it with a syringe, and it was just as addictive as ever.
You might think that Endo was leading by example, doing what they could to help fight the opioid crisis. However, the company still has the patent for the original formulation, the crushable version that it stopped selling in 2012, and the FDA didn’t ban the use of that yet. In August of 2017, Endo cut a deal with Impax Laboratories to split the profits of a generic version of that original drug, meaning they’ll still be able to profit from it.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.