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StreetRx in the news:

Canadian pills allegedly showing up on market in southern U.S.

The ongoing availability in Canada of an abuse-prone pharmaceutical may be having a spillover effect far beyond its borders.

A form of OxyContin that was banned in the United States last year is still showing up in distant corners of the country, according to data presented at a conference in San Diego.

The claim comes as Canada weighs whether to follow the American lead in banning the older form of the opioid painkiller that’s easier to crush in order to achieve an instant high.

A drug-abuse researcher said data supplied by users pointed to evidence of Canadian pills in 11 states.

They were reportedly purchased 39 times in various pockets of the country, with the most concentrated cluster centred in New Mexico and surrounding southwestern states. The information was culled from a crowdsourcing website, Street Rx, where users can plug in details about the price they’ve been charged for drugs.

In an interview, the researcher who presented the findings attempted to put the numbers in context.

He called it fascinating that the pills kept turning up in so many places far from the Canadian border, during the survey period that wrapped up last Dec. 31.

But he made it clear that the data points to a trickle of Canadian product, not a gusher.

“The U.S. is not being flooded by this product — don’t get me wrong,” said Dr. Rick Dart, of the Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance group.

“But it’s consistent… It’s a continuing event. This isn’t one suitcase (being smuggled in).”

 

We have launched international StreetRx sites in six countries: CanadaUKFranceGermanyItalySpain   Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.04.53 AM   Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.09.37 AM

Black Market Price per Milligram vs. Medical Potency

The research discussed in “Crowdsourcing Black Market Prices For Prescription Opioids” revealed that street prices paid for different opioids generally followed the rank order of the strength of these opioids.

Crowdsourcing Black Market Prices For Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioid diversion and abuse are major public health issues in the United States and internationally. Street prices of diverted prescription opioids can provide an indicator of drug availability, demand, and abuse potential, but these data can be difficult to collect. Crowdsourcing is a rapid and cost-effective way to gather information about sales transactions. We sought to determine whether crowdsourcing can provide accurate measurements of the street price of diverted prescription opioid medications.

The object of this paper, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) was to assess the possibility of crowdsourcing black market drug price data by cross-validation with law enforcement officer reports.

Through StreetRx, we collected data about the price that site visitors paid for diverted prescription opioid analgesics during the first half of 2012. These results were compared with a survey of law enforcement officers in the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS) System, and actual transaction prices on a “dark Internet” marketplace (Silk Road).

We concluded that crowdsourced data (e.g., data collected through StreetRx) provide a valid estimate of the street price of diverted prescription opioids. The (ostensibly free) black market was able to accurately predict the relative pharmacologic potency of opioid molecules.

Big Pharma Company Jacks Up Price of Overdose Life Saver by 1100%: Now, More People Will Die

In 2008, one pharmaceutical company, Hospira, secured a monopoly on the production of naloxone, an antidote that reverses opiate overdose, and jacked up the prices by 1100%. The price increases have been detrimental to overdose prevention programs around the country.

StreetRx in the News

Some notable excerpts:

The website is one of several tools used by the Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Services system to track prescription drug usage for pharmaceutical companies and others who subscribe.

Prescription drugs prices are different from street drugs, such as heroin and cocaine,ecause sellers can control the purity. That means Percocet pills in Los Angeles don’t cost much more than Percocet pills in Chillicothe.

Because prices are relatively constant, any shift might indicate a change in supply or demand, which is important information for law enforcement.

Jessie Balmert
CentralOhio.com

In a recent NPR article, Mystery Man, a drug dealer in Albuquerque, NM, who sells Suboxone on the street was interviewed:

He sells each pill for $5. He uses the profit to pay himself and his bodyguards, and to invest in his next deal. He says he notices a difference in his customers. “People don’t overdose no more. They’re just mellow,” he says. “If you take it you won’t be stealing, you won’t be robbing, and you won’t be prostituting.”      …

The Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, College Park recently warned of an emerging buprenorphine misuse. But a survey of physicians who are certified to prescribe Suboxone underscores Mystery Man’s role. The majority believe patients who seek Suboxone on the street are doing so to self-medicate.

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According to Express Scripts Holding Co.‘s annual drug-trend report, spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. rose 2.7% in 2011, the smallest increase in nearly two decades. This decreased rate of increase was largely caused by an increased use of generic drugs. In 2011, for example, Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor lost U.S. market exclusivity. (In 2012, major drugs like the blood thinner Plavix also go off patent.) The weak economy has also caused patients to put off health-care visits.

WSJ article

Washington State has passed a bill imposing “new requirements on doctors to refer patients taking high dosages of opioids — which include hydrocodone, fentanyl, methadone and oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin — for evaluation by a pain specialist if their underlying condition is not improving.”

The new harder-to-crush formulation of OxyContin sells for 28% less on the street, according to data collected by StreetRx. But black market prices for other drugs are increasing. There may be more to this story