Peacehaven woman dies from OxyContin toxicity
A highly addictive painkiller – at the centre of thousands of lawsuits in America against a drugs company – caused the death of a Peacehaven mother of three, an inquest has heard.
And so concerned at the increasing number of deaths of people taking OxyContin in the UK, an East Sussex coroner this week said he would be filing a report with NHS England asking them to take urgent action over the issue.
East Sussex coroner James Healy-Pratt expressed his fears at an inquest in Eastbourne on Wednesday (September 23) into the death of 46-year-old Anna Bridget Easton.
She was found dead on the morning of July 13 this year by her husband Kevin at the home they shared in Bolney Avenue.
The inquest heard Irish-born Mrs Easton, a nurse, had been admitted to hospital on several occasions as a result of inadvertently taking an overdose of the drug.
Her GP Dr Neil Myers said Mrs Easton had been prescribed opoid-based OxyContin for severe rheumatoid arthritis before she joined his practice as a patient.
The doctor said his belief was that the medication should only ever be used for patients receiving end of life care and who were in extreme pain.
After Mrs Easton’s death, a post mortem revealed she had died from pneumonia and OxyContin toxicity with underlying health issues.
A toxicology report showed she had 1.45mg of the drug in her blood when the therapeutic dose is just 0.05.
Dr Myers said Mrs Easton was a “dedicated nurse who suffered bad luck with her health”.
He said, “She came to us as a patient in 2014 already having been prescribed OxyContin, which is a highly addictive painkiller.
“We tried alternative medication but she told me it was the only drug that eased her pain. She wanted to reduce her dosage and we did all we could to reduce the risks of her using it.”
Dr Myers said in East Sussex health officials were struggling to “keep a lid” on the problems associated with the addictiveness of the drug.
He said, “OxyContin crept on to the market and now we are very conscious of it and trying to put a lid on something that’s very difficult.”
In a statement read to the inquest, Mr Easton said Anna was a very caring person who was very proud of her family and her Irish roots.
He said, “She was a very kind person who spent all her life caring for people. Unfortunately the last few years of her life were a struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. It was a struggle for her to get out of bed, she suffered two strokes, had sepsis, an under-active thyroid and depression.”
Mrs Easton’s family said they did not believe she had intended to take an overdose as only two of her tablets had been removed from the packet.
Mr Healy-Pratt said he would be writing to Public Health England asking the authority to take steps to reduce the problems associated with OxyContin being prescribed.
He said he would file a Prevention of Future Deaths Report about those who are prescribed the drug and fall into addiction.
The coroner said, “The picture that has been built up is a nurse who had considerable pain and was placed on the opiod painkiller OxyContin. It is the view of this inquest that she became addicted to OxyContin. She was put in a very insidious position. That raises concerns for me not just for Anna but for others. Once the OxyContin genie is out of the lamp, it is very difficult to put it back in. Something needs to be done.”
Mr Healy-Pratt referred to the high number of deaths from OxyContin users in America which has led to lawsuits against the OxyContin manufacturers Purdue Pharma and its owners, members of the Sackler family.
Lawyers say the drug is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from overdoses.
At the conclusion of the inquest, which is open to the public and members of the press who are permitted to report the proceedings in full, the coroner recorded a verdict that Mrs Easton’s death was due to OxyContin addiction and toxicity.
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