Pediatric Death from OxyContin: More to Come

In August 2016, the FDA ruled the incredibly addictive drug OxyContin, an extended-release version of the painkiller oxycodone could be prescribed for children. Though this medication is linked with the recent uptick in opioid addiction across the United States. This week we heard about a nine year old boy who had his tonsils out, a routine procedure, and died after his parents gave him the prescribed Oxy dosage. The FDA did not say this pain killer was ok for routine, out patient procedures, but doctors thought it would be fine. Another harsh reminder of the buyer-beware medical environment we live in.

From the local Milwaukee Fox affiliate:

The child was discharged from the clinic and brought home, and later given another dose of oxycodone by his mother per the instructions, which called for 4.8 ml by mouth every four hours as needed for pain.

The child became tired again and laid down on the couch. Shortly thereafter, the child’s parents noticed his breathing was labored and “sounded odd.” The mother called the surgical outpatient center to speak with a nurse, but within a couple of minutes, the father requested that 911 be called.

From USA Today:

The FDA approved OxyContin for children this age who need “daily, round-the-clock, long-term” pain relief for which there is no alternative, Hertz said. Doctors should only prescribe OxyContin in children who have already been treated with opiate painkillers and who can tolerate at least 20 milligrams a day of oxycodone.

Other than OxyContin, the only other long-acting painkiller approved for children is Duragesic, also known as fentanyl, Hertz said.

“Children are not treated with opioids very often and usually it’s only for a limited period of time with close supervision by health care professionals,” Hertz said. “Fewer daily doses may free patients for physical therapy appointments, allow them to go home from the hospital sooner and may help them to sleep through the night without waking up.”

Doctors who treat pediatric cancer patients hailed the approval as a way to ease children’s suffering. Children at the end of life aren’t at risk of addiction.

Having additional long-acting painkillers “is going to be tremendously helpful for treating children with cancer pain or pain at the end of life,” said Justin Baker, pediatric oncologist and hospice and palliative medicine doctor at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Long-acting medications prevent breakthrough pain, so that youngsters can feel comfortable and “focus their energy on being a kid instead of fighting their pain,” Baker said.


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