The US Drug and Food Administration Agency (FDA) has approved the drug OxyContin as appropriate for use in children as young as 11 if they are suffering from severe pain. OxyContin is an opioid pain relief drug. It can be addictive and discontinuing it abruptly will usually result in severe withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, insomnia, muscle pain, muscle weakness and flu-like symptoms. Overuse of the drug can result in hormonal imbalances. Approving a drug that can be addictive and dangerous for children will undoubtedly draw criticism from certain people.
For the drug to be used, the child’s pain must be so severe that they require supervision for 24 hours per day. The FDA also states that it will only be allowed if the child’s pain cannot be effectively managed using other treatments.
In a statement posted on the FDA website from Sharon Hertz, Deputy Director of the Division of Anaesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products, Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ‘Unlike adults, children must already be taking and tolerating a minimum dose equal to at least 20 milligrams of oxycodone per day for 5 consecutive days before they can be prescribed an equivalent dose of OxyContin. This way, the doctor knows that their patient tolerates and responds appropriately to opioids and knows the amount of opioid treatment needed to manage the patient’s pain. When appropriate, the doctor can then convert their patient over to an OxyContin dose that is tailored to their individual needs’. This follows research which suggests that OxyContin can be safely used as a replacement for other opioid painkillers under close medical supervision.
While the FDA has approved the use of the drug, research continues to be undertaken so that the effects of the drug can be further understood and it can be further established that the drug is safe for use on everyone. Currently, warnings relating to the dangers of the drug are the same for both children and adults.