The purpose of this site is to bring awareness on how easy it is to overdose Oxycontin(Oxy's) it's other ABUSE dangers and the dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse
   in the memory of Eddie Bisch.
Crowd protests drug maker
Dozens who had lost relatives and friends to OxyContin overdoses braved the rain outside an Orlando resort to rally against manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

By Doris Bloodsworth
Sentinel Staff Writer

November 20, 2003

More than two dozen rain-soaked protesters outside an Orlando drug-abuse prevention conference Wednesday waved poster-size photos of their friends and loved ones who died from OxyContin overdoses.

Some had traveled thousands of miles from as far away as Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Jersey to draw attention to the controversial painkiller and its manufacturer Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn.

"We feel there has to be a way to get the word out about how deadly this drug can be," said Victor Del Regno, a Rhode Island marketing executive whose 20-year-old son Andrew died Sept. 26, 2002, after abusing OxyContin.

The protesters said they picked the three-day conference led by Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife, Columba, because of the wide-scale reports of OxyContin addiction and overdose in Florida. Purdue was an exhibitor at the conference, with a booth that offered materials aimed at fighting drug abuse among young people.

Last month the Orlando Sentinel published a special report that focused on deaths and addiction linked to OxyContin and on Purdue's marketing of the drug. The paper's review of 500 autopsy results from 2001 and 2002 showed that OxyContin was named in 83 percent of the 247 cases in which a specific oxycodone medication was identified. Oxycodone is the active ingredient in OxyContin and dozens of other painkillers. The paper did not determine the specific medication in the remaining 253 deaths.

A number of motorists honked and gave a thumbs-up signal to the group calling themselves Relatives Against Purdue Pharma.

The protesters already were battling the rain when an unidentified woman pulled up in a truck and turned on the sprinkler system where the protesters were standing in front of the Caribe Royale Resort.

Chip Walden, the hotel's security director, said the hotel had not authorized anyone to do so. In fact, Walden said hotel management supported the protesters.

"I assure you that was nothing we ordered or knew about," Walden said. "We looked at the group's Web site [] and believed they were peaceful. The governor agrees with them, and we do too."

Jimmy Baltiero, 17, and his brother Tony Baltiero, 20, both of Palm Coast, carried the photo of a Pennsylvania overdose victim and a sign criticizing the pharmaceutical company. The brothers were friends of Randall Nuss, 18, who died from abusing OxyContin.

"Purdue is so dim," the sign read.

"We're out here for a good reason," Tony Baltiero said. "All of these kids died from this [OxyContin overdose], and turning on the water isn't going to make us leave."

Ed Bisch of Philadelphia read out loud a list of 260 names of people who have reportedly died of OxyContin overdose and are listed in memorials on Bisch's Web site. Bisch said eight of the names have been sent since he arrived Sunday in Orlando.

Chronic pain patients who praise OxyContin and say it allows them to function worry that such protests will make it harder to get OxyContin.

Beth Smith of Orlando said she has seen both sides of the narcotic drug.

Smith's 14-year-old daughter Kyera died earlier this year while awaiting a bone-marrow transplant for leukemia.

"One night she screamed for three hours, and they were giving her morphine," said Smith, who then asked doctors to give her daughter OxyContin instead.

"She was able to live her last month pain-free because of OxyContin," Smith said.

But the Orlando mother also knows about the drug's addictive nature. Smith carried a sign for Jason Kelley, a close friend who died in Connecticut from accidental OxyContin overdose earlier this year.

Kelley's mother, Kay Kelley-Moretti, who organized Wednesday's protest, said her son was prescribed OxyContin after a motorcycle accident in Daytona Beach. Smith said she and her husband knew Kelley through their mutual interest in motorcycle riding.

"He went from a charismatic, good-looking young man into someone that was depressed. He would call me crying because he was in withdrawal from this drug. He wanted to stop," Smith said.

Purdue Pharma spokesman Clay Yeager, at the company's conference exhibit, said he sympathized with the families. First lady Columba Bush, who spoke at the conference, also said she understood the families' concerns.

Yeager, a former official who worked with Homeland Security head Tom Ridge while he was governor of Pennsylvania, said he had seen the consequences of drug abuse often in his 28 years' experience working with youth and families.

"My message to them is let's all work together to form solutions that can be long-term examples in our communities," Yeager said.

"The problem isn't OxyContin," he continued. "The problem isn't prescriptions. The problem is getting into the heart of communities and schools and families and working together to identify what's happening."

Purdue has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to community-based drug-abuse prevention programs, he said, including ones in Tallahassee, Tampa and Palm Beach County.

Columba Bush said drug abuse among young people, including her daughter, Noelle, drove her to become involved in prevention eight years ago.

"It's the most painful thing that can happen to a parent, that's for sure," she said. "It is so sad, and my heart is with them."

Doris Bloodsworth can be reached at [email protected] or 407-420-5446.







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