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"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new formulation of the controlled-release drug OxyContin that has been designed to help discourage misuse and abuse of the medication.

OxyContin is made to slowly release the potent opio"...




The following adverse reactions described elsewhere in the labeling include:

Clinical Trial Experience

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.

The safety of OxyContin was evaluated in double-blind clinical trials involving 713 patients with moderate to severe pain of various etiologies. In open-label studies of cancer pain, 187 patients received OxyContin in total daily doses ranging from 20 mg to 640 mg per day. The average total daily dose was approximately 105 mg per day.

OxyContin may increase the risk of serious adverse reactions such as those observed with other opioid analgesics, including respiratory depression, apnea, respiratory arrest, circulatory depression, hypotension, or shock [see OVERDOSAGE].

The most common adverse reactions ( > 5%) reported by patients in clinical trials comparing OxyContin with placebo are shown in Table 1 below:

TABLE 1: Common Adverse Reactions ( > 5%)

Adverse Reaction OxyContin
Constipation (23) (7)
Nausea (23) (11)
Somnolence (23) (4)
Dizziness (13) (9)
Pruritus (13) (2)
Vomiting (12) (7)
Headache (7) (7)
Dry Mouth (6) (2)
Asthenia (6) -
Sweating (5) (2)

In clinical trials, the following adverse reactions were reported in patients treated with OxyContin with an incidence between 1% and 5%:

Gastrointestinal disorders: abdominal pain, diarrhea, dyspepsia, gastritis

General disorders and administration site conditions: chills, fever

Metabolism and nutrition disorders: anorexia

Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders: twitching

Psychiatric disorders: abnormal dreams, anxiety, confusion, dysphoria, euphoria, insomnia, nervousness, thought abnormalities

Respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorders: dyspnea, hiccups

Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: rash

Vascular disorders: postural hypotension

The following adverse reactions occurred in less than 1% of patients involved in clinical trials:

Blood and lymphatic system disorders: lymphadenopathy

Ear and labyrinth disorders: tinnitus

Eye disorders: abnormal vision

Gastrointestinal disorders: dysphagia, eructation, flatulence, gastrointestinal disorder, increased appetite, stomatitis

General disorders and administration site conditions: withdrawal syndrome (with and without seizures), edema, peripheral edema, thirst, malaise, chest pain, facial edema

Injury, poisoning and procedural complications: accidental injury

Investigations: ST depression

Metabolism and nutrition disorders: dehydration

Nervous system disorders: syncope, migraine, abnormal gait, amnesia, hyperkinesia, hypesthesia, hypotonia, paresthesia, speech disorder, stupor, tremor, vertigo, taste perversion

Psychiatric disorders: depression, agitation, depersonalization, emotional lability, hallucination

Renal and urinary disorders: dysuria, hematuria, polyuria, urinary retention

Reproductive system and breast disorders: impotence

Respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorders: cough increased, voice alteration

Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: dry skin, exfoliative dermatitis

Postmarketing Experience

The following adverse reactions have been identified during post-approval use of controlled-release oxycodone: abuse, addiction, amenorrhea, cholestasis, death, dental caries, increased hepatic enzymes, hyperalgesia, hyponatremia, ileus, muscular hypertonia, overdose, palpitations (in the context of withdrawal), seizures, syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion, and urticaria.

Anaphylaxis has been reported with ingredients contained in OxyContin. Advise patients how to recognize such a reaction and when to seek medical attention.

In addition to the events listed above, the following have also been reported, potentially due to the swelling and hydrogelling property of the tablet: choking, gagging, regurgitation, tablets stuck in the throat and difficulty swallowing the tablet.

Read the Oxycontin (oxycodone hcl) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects


CNS Depressants

Concurrent use of OxyContin and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants including sedatives or hypnotics, general anesthetics, phenothiazines, tranquilizers, and alcohol can increase the risk of respiratory depression, hypotension, profound sedation or coma. Monitor patients receiving CNS depressants and OxyContin for signs of respiratory depression and hypotension. When such combined therapy is contemplated, start OxyContin at 1/3 to ½ of the usual dosage and consider using a lower dose of the concomitant CNS depressant.

Muscle Relaxants

Oxycodone may enhance the neuromuscular blocking action of true skeletal muscle relaxants and produce an increased degree of respiratory depression. Monitor patients receiving muscle relaxants and OxyContin for signs of respiratory depression that may be greater than otherwise expected.

Agents Affecting Cytochrome P450 Isoenzymes

Inhibitors of CYP3A4

Co-administration of a strong CYP3A4 inhibitor ketoconazole, with OxyContin, significantly increased the plasma concentrations of oxycodone. Inhibition of CYP3A4 activity by its inhibitors, such as macrolide antibiotics (e.g., erythromycin), azole-antifungal agents (e.g., ketoconazole), and protease inhibitors (e.g., ritonavir), may prolong opioid effects. If coadministration is necessary, caution is advised when initiating therapy with, currently taking, or discontinuing CYP3A4 inhibitors. Evaluate these patients at frequent intervals and consider dose adjustments until stable drug effects are achieved [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Inducers of CYP3A4

A published study showed that the co-administration of rifampin, a drug metabolizing enzyme inducer, significantly decreased plasma oxycodone concentrations. CYP450 inducers, such as rifampin, carbamazepine, and phenytoin, may induce the metabolism of oxycodone and, therefore, may cause increased clearance of the drug which could lead to a decrease in oxycodone plasma concentrations, lack of efficacy or, possibly, development of an abstinence syndrome in a patient who had developed physical dependence to oxycodone. If coadministration with OxyContin is necessary, caution is advised when initiating therapy with, currently taking, or discontinuing CYP3A4 inducers. Evaluate these patients at frequent intervals and consider dose adjustments until stable drug effects are achieved [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

Inhibitors of CYP2D6

Oxycodone is metabolized in part to oxymorphone via CYP2D6. While this pathway may be blocked by a variety of drugs such as certain cardiovascular drugs (e.g., quinidine) and antidepressants (e.g., fluoxetine), such blockade has not been shown to be of clinical significance during oxycodone treatment. However, clinicians should be aware of this possible interaction.

Mixed Agonist/Antagonist Opioid Analgesics

Mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics (i.e., pentazocine, nalbuphine, and butorphanol) should generally not be administered to a patient who has received or is receiving a course of therapy with a pure opioid agonist analgesic such as OxyContin. In this situation, mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics may reduce the analgesic effect of oxycodone and may precipitate withdrawal symptoms in these patients.


Opioids can reduce the efficacy of diuretics by inducing the release of antidiuretic hormone. Opioids may also lead to acute retention of urine by causing spasm of the sphincter of the bladder, particularly in men with enlarged prostates.


Anticholinergics or other medications with anticholinergic activity when used concurrently with opioid analgesics may result in increased risk of urinary retention and/or severe constipation, which may lead to paralytic ileus. Monitor patients for signs of urinary retention or reduced gastric motility when OxyContin is used concurrently with anticholinergic drugs.

Drug Abuse And Dependence

Controlled Substance

OxyContin contains oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance with a high potential for abuse similar to other opioids including fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, and oxymorphone. OxyContin can be abused and is subject to misuse, addiction, and criminal diversion [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

The high drug content in extended-release formulations adds to the risk of adverse outcomes from abuse and misuse.


Abuse of OxyContin poses a hazard of overdose and death. This risk is increased with compromising the tablet and with concurrent abuse of alcohol or other substances.

All patients treated with opioids require careful monitoring for signs of abuse and addiction, since use of opioid analgesic products carries the risk of addiction even under appropriate medical use. Drug addiction is a treatable disease, utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, but relapse is common.

Drug abuse is the intentional non-therapeutic use of an over-the-counter or prescription drug, even once, for its rewarding psychological or physiological effects. Drug abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following examples: the use of a prescription or over-the-counter drug to get “high”, or the use of steroids for performance enhancement and muscle build up.

Drug addiction is a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and include: a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal.

“Drug-seeking” behavior is very common to addicts and drug abusers. Drug-seeking tactics include emergency calls or visits near the end of office hours, refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral, repeated claims of loss of prescriptions, tampering with prescriptions and reluctance to provide prior medical records or contact information for other treating physician(s). “Doctor shopping” (visiting multiple prescribers) to obtain additional prescriptions is common among drug abusers and people suffering from untreated addiction.

Preoccupation with achieving adequate pain relief can be appropriate behavior in a patient with poor pain control.

Abuse and addiction are separate and distinct from physical dependence and tolerance. Physicians should be aware that addiction may not be accompanied by concurrent tolerance and symptoms of physical dependence in all addicts. In addition, abuse of opioids can occur in the absence of true addiction.

OxyContin, like other opioids, can be diverted for non-medical use into illicit channels of distribution. Careful recordkeeping of prescribing information, including quantity, frequency, and renewal requests as required by state law, is strongly advised.

Proper assessment of the patient, proper prescribing practices, periodic reevaluation of therapy, and proper dispensing and storage are appropriate measures that help to reduce abuse of opioid drugs.

Risks Specific to Abuse of OxyContin

OxyContin is for oral use only. Abuse of OxyContin poses a risk of overdose and death. Abuse may occur by taking intact tablets in quantities greater than prescribed or without legitimate purpose, by crushing and chewing or snorting the crushed formulation, or by injecting a solution made from the crushed formulation. The risk of overdose or death is increased with concurrent use of OxyContin with alcohol and other central nervous system depressants. Taking cut, broken, chewed, crushed, or dissolved OxyContin enhances drug release and increases the risk of overdose and death.

With parenteral abuse, the inactive ingredients in OxyContin can result in death, local tissue necrosis, infection, pulmonary granulomas, and increased risk of endocarditis and valvular heart injury. Parenteral drug abuse is commonly associated with transmission of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV.

Abuse Deterrence Studies

OxyContin is formulated with inactive ingredients intended to make the tablet more difficult to manipulate for misuse and abuse. For the purposes of describing the results of studies of the abuse-deterrent characteristics of OxyContin resulting from a change in formulation, in this section, the original formulation of OxyContin, which is no longer marketed, will be referred to as “original OxyContin” and the reformulated, currently marketed product will be referred to as OxyContin.

In Vitro Testing In vitro physical and chemical tablet manipulation studies were performed to evaluate the success of different extraction methods in defeating the extended-release formulation. Results support that, relative to original OxyContin, there is an increase in the ability of OxyContin to resist crushing, breaking, and dissolution using a variety of tools and solvents. The results of these studies also support this finding for OxyContin relative to an immediate-release oxycodone. When subjected to an aqueous environment, OxyContin gradually forms a viscous hydrogel (i.e., a gelatinous mass) that resists passage through a needle.

Clinical Studies

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 5-period crossover pharmacodynamic study, 30 recreational opioid users with a history of intranasal drug abuse received intranasally administered active and placebo drug treatments. The five treatment arms were finely crushed OxyContin 30 mg tablets, coarsely crushed OxyContin 30 mg tablets, finely crushed original OxyContin 30 mg tablets, powdered oxycodone HCl 30 mg, and placebo. Data for finely crushed OxyContin, finely crushed original OxyContin, and powdered oxycodone HCl are described below.

Drug-liking was measured on a bipolar drug liking scale of 0 to 100 where 50 represents a neutral response of neither liking nor disliking, 0 represents maximum disliking and 100 represents maximum liking. Response to whether the subject would take the study drug again was also measured on a bipolar scale of 0 to 100 where 50 represents a neutral response, 0 represents the strongest negative response ('definitely would not take drug again') and 100 represents the strongest positive response ('definitely would to take drug again').

Twenty-seven of the subjects completed the study. Incomplete dosing due to granules falling from the subjects' nostrils occurred in 34% (n=10) of subjects with finely crushed OxyContin, compared with 7% (n=2) of subjects with finely crushed original OxyContin and no subjects with powdered oxycodone HCl.

The intranasal administration of finely crushed OxyContin was associated with a numerically lower mean and median drug liking score and a lower mean and median score for take drug again, compared to finely crushed original OxyContin or powdered oxycodone HCl as summarized in Table 2.

Table 2: Summary of Maximum Drug Liking (Emax) Data Following Intranasal Administration

VAS Scale (100 mm)*   OxyContin (finely crushed) Original OxyContin (finely crushed) Oxycodone HCl (powdered)
Drug Liking Mean (SE) 80.4 (3.9) 94.0 (2.7) 89.3 (3.1)
Median (Range) 88 (36-100) 100 (51-100) 100 (50-100)
Take Drug Again Mean (SE) 64.0 (7.1) 89.6 (3.9) 86.6 (4.4)
Median (Range) 78 (0-100) 100 (20-100) 100 (0-100)
* Bipolar scales (0 = maximum negative response, 50 = neutral response, 100 = maximum positive response)

Figure 1 demonstrates a comparison of drug liking for finely crushed OxyContin compared to powdered oxycodone HCl in subjects who received both treatments. The Y-axis represents the percent of subjects attaining a percent reduction in drug liking for OxyContin vs. oxycodone HCl powder greater than or equal to the value on the X-axis. Approximately 44% (n = 12) had no reduction in liking with OxyContin relative to oxycodone HCl. Approximately 56% (n = 15) of subjects had some reduction in drug liking with OxyContin relative to oxycodone HCl. Thirty-three percent (n = 9) of subjects had a reduction of at least 30% in drug liking with OxyContin compared to oxycodone HCl, and approximately 22% (n= 6) of subjects had a reduction of at least 50% in drug liking with OxyContin compared to oxycodone HCl.

Figure 1: Percent Reduction Profiles for Emax of Drug Liking VAS for OxyContin vs. oxycodone HCl, N=27 Following Intranasal Administration

Percent Reduction Profiles for Emax of Drug Liking VAS for OxyContin vs. oxycodone HCl, N=27 Following Intranasal Administration - Illustration

The results of a similar analysis of drug liking for finely crushed OxyContin relative to finely crushed original OxyContin were comparable to the results of finely crushed OxyContin relative to powdered oxycodone HCl. Approximately 43% (n = 12) of subjects had no reduction in liking with OxyContin relative to original OxyContin. Approximately 57% (n = 16) of subjects had some reduction in drug liking, 36% (n = 10) of subjects had a reduction of at least 30% in drug liking, and approximately 29% (n= 8) of subjects had a reduction of at least 50% in drug liking with OxyContin compared to original OxyContin.


The in vitro data demonstrate that OxyContin has physicochemical properties expected to make abuse via injection difficult. The data from the clinical study, along with support from the in vitro data, also indicate that OxyContin has physicochemical properties that are expected to reduce abuse via the intranasal route. However, abuse of OxyContin by these routes, as well as by the oral route is still possible.

Additional data, including epidemiological data, when available, may provide further information on the impact of the current formulation of OxyContin on the abuse liability of the drug. Accordingly, this section may be updated in the future as appropriate.

OxyContin contains oxycodone, an opioid agonist and Schedule II controlled substance with an abuse liability similar to other opioid agonists, legal and illicit, including fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, and oxymorphone. OxyContin can be abused and is subject to misuse, addiction, and criminal diversion [See WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].


Both tolerance and physical dependence can develop during chronic opioid therapy. Tolerance is the need for increasing doses of opioids to maintain a defined effect such as analgesia (in the absence of disease progression or other external factors). Tolerance may occur to both the desired and undesired effects of drugs, and may develop at different rates for different effects.

Physical dependence results in withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation or a significant dose reduction of a drug. Withdrawal also may be precipitated through the administration of drugs with opioid antagonist activity, e.g., naloxone, nalmefene, or mixed agonist/antagonist analgesics (pentazocine, butorphanol, nalbuphine). Physical dependence may not occur to a clinically significant degree until after several days to weeks of continued opioid usage.

OxyContin should not be abruptly discontinued [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. If OxyContin is abruptly discontinued in a physically-dependent patient, an abstinence syndrome may occur. Some or all of the following can characterize this syndrome: restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Other signs and symptoms also may develop, including: irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, or heart rate.

Infants born to mothers physically dependent on opioids will also be physically dependent and may exhibit respiratory difficulties and withdrawal signs [see Use In Specific Populations].

Read the Oxycontin Drug Interactions Center for a complete guide to possible interactions

Last reviewed on RxList: 4/26/2013
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.


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