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Painkiller Linked to Deaths

OxyContin is a controlled substance in the United States and is prescribed as a long-term painkiller for cancer patients and others. The pill is designed to slowly release its active ingredient, oxycodone, to control the dosage of the powerful narcotic.// But if the pill is chewed or crushed and sniffed, it gives a stronger dose--providing a high that can be addictive and dangerous.

The controversial Purdue Pharma painkiller OxyContin has been implicated as the direct cause or main contributing factor in 150 deaths and a likely contributor in an additional 350 deaths, according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Previously, the DEA estimated that the painkiller was associated with 290 deaths from diversion and overdose.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma told that the DEA conclusions were inherently flawed. In a statement, the privately held drug maker said the DEA analysis suffered from serious methodological flaws that undermined its conclusions.

The company also observed that the DEA analysis failed to establish OxyContin as the direct cause of death or allow the company and FDA to conduct an independent review of the data. "It is wrong to conclude or imply that 'OxyContin-likely' or 'OxyContin-verified' means that OxyContin was the cause of these deaths," the company wrote.

While other prescription pain relievers such as Percocet, Percodan and Tylox contain oxycodone, they contain much lower doses of the drug. OxyContin contains anywhere from 10 mg to 160 mg of oxycodone, while the other drugs contain 2.25 mg to 5 mg of the drug.

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