It’s a story of unintended consequences. In 2012, Endo Pharmaceuticals reformulated Opana ER, a potent opioid painkiller, to be harder to crush into powder and snort. But this did not stop people from abusing it. Instead, they started injecting the drug—sparking a number of disease outbreaks including the largest HIV outbreak in Indiana history.
Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed Opana ER too dangerous to be on the market. In a statement, the agency noted this was the first time the FDA has requested that a company pull its drug “due to the public health consequences of abuse.”
Opana ER is an extended-release version of oxymorphone, packing 12 hours of pain relief in one pill. It is about as twice as potent as OxyContin. This is convenient for pain patients, but it is also attractive to people addicted to opioids. Snorting a crushed pill gives a big dose of oxymorphone all at once. That’s why Endo Pharmaceuticals started marketing a crush-proof version of the Opana ER.
As NPR as reported, the company may have had additional motives at the time. Endo’s patent on the drug was expiring. To keep out generic competitors, it argued in a lawsuit the crushable version of oxymorphone was too dangerous.