Written Testimony of Frederick W. Pauzar
Before the Government Reform Committee�s
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and
Winter Park, Florida, February 9, 2004
Chairman Souder, Representative
Mica and other distinguished members of the Criminal
Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Subcommittee,
thank you for the opportunity to testify before you
My name is Fred Pauzar and I am the
father of Chris Pauzar, a brilliant 22-year old man who
died from a toxic dose of OxyContin 76 days ago, on
November the 25th, 2003. Although the tragedy of losing
a child is not something one should ever be forced to
imagine, I will simply submit to you that the pain from
this loss is so great it overshadows nearly everything
else. Each life that can be saved through the enactment
of proper legislation and regulatory standards and
procedures will be a life whose potential for greatness,
whose contributions to mankind, may still be achieved.
Each premature and needless death - such as that of my
own son - is a heart shattering occurrence that also
deprives society of all the brilliance, all of the
achievements, all of the greatness that will now never
come to pass.
OxyContin was originally prescribed
to my son for a minor shoulder injury, an injury for
which he might have taken acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
When he found it difficult to stop taking OxyContin, he
was assured by his physician that its continued use was
safe and he carried on. His frequency of dosage
increased and, eventually, he was taking 200 milligrams
or more per day. All along he was reassured that the
long-term use of this drug wasn�t harming him, both by
his physician and by Purdue Pharma literature that
suggested the appropriateness of prescribing OxyContin
for pain that would be ��expected to persist for an
extended period of time.� He concluded logically that,
the drug is suitable for use on an extended basis and
that taking it on an extended basis would not be
When my son ultimately realized
that he was uncontrollably addicted to this drug,
experiencing flu-like symptoms and great physical and
emotional distress when he stopped using it, he needed
and sought regular group and private therapy and other
medical support to detoxify and to learn to live without
OxyContin in his life. Unfortunately, after breaking
the pattern of daily use, he wrongly decided to take it
into his body one more time, saying that �one more time
won�t kill me� on the evening that he died.
Since my son�s death, since
learning of the greatest pain any parent might
experience, I have been stunned by the facts related to
the marketing, prescribing, use and abuse of the drug
that killed him. And I have been astounded that a clear
and insidious correlation exists between the market
penetration this drug has achieved and the toll of death
it has left behind.
OxyContin came into existence in
1995, when Purdue Pharma deceived the U.S. Government by
engaging in ��inequitable conduct before the Patent and
Trademark Office�� (January 5, 2003, U.S. Dis. Judge
Sidney H. Stein) in order to patent OxyContin. Its
sales have literally skyrocketed, thanks in part to
uniquely aggressive advertising and the promulgation of
performance claims that have not held up to scrutiny.
In 1995 and 1996 it was sold as a
chronic pain medication for use with cancer patients.
Then in 1997 Purdue Pharma began to push this drug into
new markets such as back pain and injury. At the same
time the company reached down into moderate pain
treatment, it adding a more potent dosage, beginning the
manufacture of 80-milligram tablets to complement
the smaller 10, 20 and 40-milligram pills already on the
market. By 1998, fully two-thirds of all Oxy
prescriptions issued are for non-cancer pain.
Cleverly, Purdue Pharma paid for
hundreds of physicians to ravel on junkets where they
were educated about the benefits of OxyContin, a
Schedule II drug without a �ceiling� on dosage. Those
physicians were, in the manner of a pyramid building
fashion, told they would be paid speakers� fees for
talking to other doctors about the benefits of
By 1999, Purdue Pharma�s objectives
included a reach toward one-half billion dollars in
sales of their star drug, with their marketing efforts
targeting more groups including seniors with direct to
consumer (DTC) advertising. Again, while the marketing
effort seeks to aggressively broaden market penetration,
the manufacturing side of the company delivers an even
more potent tablet, a 160-milligram pill.
By 2001, Purdue Pharma had
comfortably rocketed past the one billion dollar mark in
sales from this single drug, with the Company noting in
passing that the challenges presented by mounting
evidence of OxyContin abuse in Florida, Maine, Ohio and
other states ��will continue to be a threat to the
continued success of OxyContin tablets.�
In 2002, OxyContin sales hit the
$1.2 billion level, representing more than 80% of Purdue
Pharma�s total revenue and the vast majority of its
profitability, due in part to the advantage handed
Purdue Pharma by the FDA. As Purdue Pharma�s marketing
group noted in the face of mounting evidence that deaths
in Florida and other states from Oxy exceed deaths from
heroin, �It is unlikely that an opioid approved by the
FDA in the future will have as broad of an indication
[or indicated usage] as OxyContin now enjoys.�
And in this regard Purdue Pharma is
surely correct. With the unwitting actions of many fine
physicians who relied on the marketing promises made by
an aggressive Purdue Pharma sales force, with the
calculated and illicit actions of a small percentage of
doctors who abuse the system, and with a system that
statewide and federally has been slow to recognize the
danger of this drug and respond in appropriate fashion,
the daily death toll continues to mount.
In Florida alone, more than one
person dies on average each day from the intake of Oxy.
The loss is truly incalculable but nonetheless
devastating and real.
May you have the wisdom and the
courage to deal effectively with this threat to our
children and our society overall by taking effective
steps to monitor and curb the improper marketing and use
of this devastating drug. And may you never know the
pain that I, along with thousands of parents before me
and hundreds more since, now feel.
Lawmakers discuss controls of
Tighter regulation is likely for potentially addictive
medications such as OxyContin, members of Congress said
at a Winter Park hearing.
By Robyn Suriano
Sentinel Medical Writer
February 10, 2004
WINTER PARK -- Citing widespread abuse of the painkiller
OxyContin, members of Congress said Monday that doctors,
pharmacists and drug manufacturers should brace
themselves for new government controls of potentially
addictive prescription drugs.
The health-care industry's arguments against tighter
monitoring -- such as patient-privacy concerns and the
risk of scaring away legitimate pain patients -- just
don't cut it today, said U.S Rep. Mark Souder.
The Indiana Republican said the "leave-it-alone world"
no longer exists and earlier chided a panel that
included a doctor, pharmacist and drug-company
"Frankly, I am very frustrated by your testimony," said
Souder, who described himself as being sympathetic to
the health-care industry but said he is growing weary of
"getting the crap kicked out of me" because of his
Some of the measures discussed were shutting down
Internet pharmacies that indiscriminately dispense drugs
that can be addictive; installing statewide systems to
track every prescription written for the drugs; and
tougher enforcement of existing penalties for doctors
and pharmacists who break the law.
Souder said, "We want to make sure we don't overreact,
but I'm sorry, there are going to be controls. To not
act suggests irresponsibility."
The lengthy hearing was held at Winter Park City Hall,
with a small contingent of people who carried placards
bearing their loved ones' photos and the words
"OxyContin kills" in red letters. They wore yellow
buttons that said: "RAPP: Relatives Against Purdue
Pharma," the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company
that makes OxyContin.
The only relative of a pain patient to testify was Fred
Pauzar of Winter Park. He told the Congress members of
his son's death from what he described as an OxyContin
overdose in November. He said Christopher Pauzar, 22,
was prescribed the medication for a shoulder injury,
became addicted, and took it on the night he died.
Pauzar, who runs an architecture firm, partly blames
Purdue Pharma's marketing practices, saying the drug
company's aggressive salesmanship has prompted doctors
to increasingly prescribe the medication for lesser
ailments. He thinks it should be banned for "moderate
"May you have the wisdom and the courage to deal
effectively with this threat to our children," he told
the panel, "by taking effective steps to monitor and
curb the improper marketing and use of this devastating
Purdue Pharma generally blames overdoses on drug abusers
who use the pain medication illegally, and the company
says the drug is rarely addictive when used as
Company spokesman James Heins said his company actively
educates doctors about OxyContin and its potential
dangers. He said prescription-drug abuse goes far beyond
his company's drug.
"It's the one that's getting all the attention today,"
Heins said, "but it's an issue of prescription-drug
abuse. OxyContin is only one part of the problem."
The hearing also drew speakers who cautioned against
measures that would prevent doctors from prescribing
drugs such as OxyContin when needed. Another lawmaker,
U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., said untreated pain is
already a major public-health problem in the United
A dentist, Norwood said legislators would be remiss if
they didn't keep legitimate pain patients in mind as
they addressed the problems.
"Unless you've been there, unless you have had that pain
and can barely stand it, you don't know what it's like
to live with it," Norwood said.
A representative from Purdue Pharma told the
congressional subcommittee that abuse of painkillers
dates to the Civil War, when battle-injured men became
addicted to morphine in what used to be called
The problem won't go away with a limited attack on one
drug, said Jack Henningfield, vice president of research
and health policy for Pinney Associates, a
health-consulting firm representing Purdue Pharma.
"We have to be careful [that we] don't squeeze the
balloon in one place and it pops up in another,"
Though the hearing was aimed at prescription-drug abuse
in general, OxyContin was the sole focus of discussion
about specific drugs. OxyContin is an opiate-based
painkiller that came on the market in 1995 for cancer
patients. It has been prescribed increasingly in the
years since for a variety of ailments, and illegal uses
of the drug have flourished, according to drug officials
at the hearing.
Illegal use of OxyContin can produce a heroinlike high,
giving the medication the street nickname "heroin in a
An Orlando Sentinel investigation last year found that
the number of people dying from oxycodone, the active
ingredient in OxyContin and other painkillers, surpassed
those who overdosed on heroin in Florida during 2001 and
2002. Florida medical examiners reported 573 oxycodone
overdose deaths in those years, compared with 521 heroin
Through autopsy reports, police reports and interviews
with relatives and witnesses, the Sentinel was able to
identify a specific medication in 247 of the oxycodone
deaths. In 83 percent of those 247 cases, OxyContin was
the drug identified.
Monday's hearing was held at the request of U.S. Rep.
John Mica, R-Winter Park, who expressed his frustration
that there isn't more coordination among government
agencies to deal with illegal prescription-drug use.
He asked representatives of the Food and Drug
Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration
to outline what obstacles are hampering their ability to
better regulate the drugs and how they would like
penalties against offenders to be increased.
Afterward, Mica said he hopes the hearing will provide
impetus to future legislation, better education of
doctors and pharmacists, along with better communication
and cooperation among agencies.
"Just looking at the magnitude of the problem clearly
requires some kind of federal" involvement, he said.
Robyn Suriano can be reached at
[email protected] or 407-420-5487.
Parents sit in on House
testimony of OxyContin use
on February 11, 2004
Winter Park � Jeff Taylor sat in the city hall
chamber�s front row with two poster-size pictures of his
son, Matt, who overdosed after taking the controversial
painkiller OxyContin at a party last June.
Jeff Taylor, a captain with the Lee County Sheriff�s
Office, and his wife, Terri, listen to testimony
from expert witnesses during the prescription drug
abuse prevention hearing of the Subcommittee on
Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources on
Monday in Winter Park. Taylor�s son, Matt, died of
an OxyContin overdose on June 19. Captain Taylor and
many other parents of children who died after taking
the drug came to the hearing with posters displaying
the names and faces of their children.
The Fort Myers father wanted U.S. Reps. John Mica, R-Fla.;
Mark Souder, R-Ind.; Charlie Norwood, R-Ga; and Rick
Keller, R-Fla.; to see his 18-year-old son.
The congressmen looked at Matt�s smiling face as they
listened to officials in the law enforcement, medical
and pharmacy fields talk about prescription drug abuse.
Taylor, a Lee County sheriff�s captain, and his wife,
Terri, drove three hours to be at the hearing before the
U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on criminal
justice, drug policy and human resources.
�This is sure something I never thought we would be
involved in,� said Terri Taylor, who married Taylor
shortly after Matt died.
For five hours, 12 witnesses � including the Florida
Pharmacy Association president, a Drug Enforcement
Administration agent, an Orlando Anderson Cancer Center
doctor and a U.S. Food and Drug Administration
representative � spoke about the complexity of the
prescription drug abuse problem and the need for
something to be done, especially about OxyContin.
By chewing, snorting or shooting OxyContin, abusers
get a morphine-like high, according to the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration. A large dose can cause
severe respiratory depression, which can lead to death
by slowing a person�s breathing to dangerously low
The painkiller produced by Purdue Pharma hit the
market in 1995 and is already the most widely known
example of prescription drug abuse, said Thomas
Raffanello, DEA special agent in charge in the Miami
�DEA has never witnessed such a rapid increase in
abuse and diversion of a pharmaceutical drug product,�
However, he later told the panel that the DEA�s
biggest drug problems in Florida are heroin and
Prescription drug users are getting the drugs a
number of ways, such as doctor shopping, prescription
fraud, robbery and the Internet.
Taking away access to the drugs, such as OxyContin,
will not solve the problem, the witnesses agreed.
�We must ensure that prescription pain medications
are available to the patients who need them and that we
do all we can to prevent these drugs from becoming a
source of harm and abuse,� said Karen Kaplan, president
and chief executive officer for Last Acts Partnership,
which is a national not-for-profit organization
dedicated to improving care near the end of life. Purdue
Pharma advocacy senior director Pamela Bennett agreed.
�It�s going to take all of us to be part of the
solution,� she said.
By the end of the hearing, Taylor seemed hopeful that
something would change.
�But actions speak louder than words,� he said as he
carried the pictures of Matt out of the chamber.