"Classic" Tab of Oxy Fetches $50

By Dirk Hanson 04/27/11

Purdue Pharma's new 'anti-abuse' version of OxyContin recently hit the shelves. But loyalists prefer to shell out big bucks for the old brand.

Cheap pills for the rich.
Photo via oxywatchdog

OxyContin is relatively affordable if you have health insurance. However, an out-of-pocket prescription runs about $8 per 80 mg pill. And for the poor, the uninsured, and the addicted, the cost is staggering—dealers charge anywhere from $30 to $80 a pill on the street. (Which might explain the hundreds of holdups at pharmacies nationwide.) The rough rule of thumb in most illegal markets is that a typical tab of OxyContin is worth from 50 cents to $1 per milligram. Bear in mind that OxyContin comes in two forms—OC, the standard form, and Oxy OP, the newer non-snortable form of the drug that is getting bad reviews from people who actually use it to treat chronic pain. We interviewed a diverse host of consumers to get a grip on current market conditions. The take-away? Everyone loves a classic.

“The manufacturer basically changed Oxy's chemical compound (none of the actual drug was removed) by adding a substance that makes it really difficult for most people to abuse it. People were abusing the old drug by crushing the pills to snort them, dissolving them to inject, or chewing them to get a maximum high. So in many ways the new drug is good news, because it prevents stuff like that. The bad news is that in my opinion, whatever substance they added to it has dulled how well the medication works and how long it lasts.”

“The new OxyContin OPs are supposedly in line with the old 80 mg pills. But since the new pills were introduced, the price of the older OC pills has jumped by a good solid 20%. People who have them might want to hold on to them if they can. They're like antiques. You might make some good money off of them later!”

"My guess, as an extreme oxy-popper myself, is that people will pay much less for the new OPs. I personally was offered the OP 60 mg today for $40 and I said no thanks."

“The new OPs won't break up into a powder. Consequently they always stay chunky and are worthless to rail. You can shave the pills into tiny bits or bake them in a microwave until they turn golden and try to snort that, but if the drug turns brown the effects are no longer good, and the line between brown and golden is pretty small.”

“I have been in chronic pain for 11 years. For most of this time, OxyContin seemed to work pretty well, Then came 'The Change'—I have diarrhea 24/7. Stomach ache periodically—I take the OPs with Half & Half. OxyContin has been a PR debacle since a month after being placed on the market. In light of all the controversy around these pills, the new OPs are Purdue Pharma’s attempt at an image fix. Great if it helps strem this tide of addiction. But meanwhile, I—and lots of other credible users—are suffering.”

“I was taking the old OxyContins and they worked much better. My pain level was down and I was able to sleep much more soundly. The company says it hasn't altered its formula, but for some reason I find that the new OP Oxys don't work anywhere near as well as the old ones did. I understand why they had to change them. But God bless those people who are really in pain!”

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]