Do pharm companies "cycle" through opiates/opioids due to stigma?

I was reading about how Purdue was actually fined for misrepresenting oxycontin:

And it really does seem like every five years or so in the USA there is a new hotshot opiate/opioid or new formulation for severe pain, that then gets abused and gets a stigma just in time for the new one to replace it. And the new one is non-addictive and abuse proof and many other claims which inevitably turn out to be bullshit.

Hell this goes back to morphine being promoted as non-addictive replacement for opium, and then heroin replacing morphine, and it seems like the merry go round is still turning. I believe the newest opioid to hit the market is tapentadol.

Any drug that is a mu opiate receptor agonist is going to be addictive, and is going to be abused. So what is the point of releasing a new one every few years?

Generally pharm companies will change the chemical, sometimes molecular makeup of a certain popular drug once their exclusivity patent runs out (IOW when generics become legal). The ‘new’ drug is actually little different in its effects but because it’s different chemically it’s considered an entirely new compound so they have exclusive manufacturing & distributing rights to it (again).

Given the enormous market in this country for ‘hillbilly heroin’ (Oxys etc.) I’m sure they’re subject to this. Makes good business sense…

Little from column A, little from column B…

There are several reasons to release new drugs. Patentability, image problems leading to a slow down in sales and, believe it or not, drug researchers generally are actual human beings capable of compassion who often got into their field because they want to help relieve suffering, and this new drug might just do it better. Shocking, I know.

So yes, you’re right, and Hail Ants is right. There’s a list of reasons why it’s done, not just a simple, single motivation.

Oh I wish I was on OxyCotton,
Bad times then would be forgotten,
look away, look away, look away, Straight Dopers.

Deja vu :wink:

While this is true, generally the FDA requires to bring a new drug that new drug must be better in some way than existing drugs. Less side effects, less addictive, more efficacious, cheaper… something. I believe this is especially true for drugs entering a market where there is already alot of competition (less true if the new drugs competition is the sole competitor).

The new drug that comes out every few years is in fact… better… generally.

However, companies can issue remixes of existing medications, where the new mix is still under patent. Witness Zegerid (generic omeprazole plus baking soda) - the prescription version of that would have cost me hundreds of dollars a month if I hadn’t basically said “this is bullshit” and refused. And Arthrotec (diclofenac and carafate) - ingredients are generic now, but the combined pill is 3-4 times as expensive as getting the components separately.

Either these compounds require no approval at all, or it’s a paperwork exercise.

Adding different excipient such as baking soda or starch or wax or something may in fact change the pharmacokinetics of the the drug. It may become time release giving steady flow of drug into your system or some other such type improvement.

Combinations of drugs improve patient compliance and as with added excipients may improve the pharmacokinetic/dynamic profile of the drug. That is to say, drug absorbtion and such is really complex. With combinations of drugs you can control how they absorb into the blood stream in relation to each other.

I’m not in regulatory affairs, but I’m positive these types of changes DO require approval and testing. Experiments are performed. It may not be full on phase I, Phase II Phase III etc clinical trials, but the approval process is not insignificant. Pharma companies have entire departments dedicated to filing paperwork with the FDA and making sure every tiny rule and test is followed.

Besides, all of this doesn’t take away from the fact that the old drug formulation is still off patent and becomes available for generics. It’s a caveat emptor situation if they choose to buy the new name brand instead of the old generic.

Disclaimer: I used to work in the pharma industry. I’m now back in school pursuing a higher degree in Biotechnology.

Nitpick: diclofenac and misoprostol, which are both generic as well.