By Jason Carroll
(CNN) -- The maker of the highly addictive painkiller, OxyContin, is testing the drug's effects on children. Purdue Pharma says it's not trying to get the medication approved to treat pain in kids, though.
The powerful painkiller has brought relief to millions but it's also made headlines for its abuse. Rush Limbaugh and Courtney Love are among the notable names whose addiction became public.
The latest controversy surrounds a study under way to test the affects of OxyContin on children.
"My concern is the reason they're interested in this research is that they want to get approval to market the drug for use in children," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny with Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.
Doctors have been prescribing opioids like OxyContin to children for years, doing it "off label." In other words, prescribing it even though it's only approved for adults.
The FDA asked OxyContin's maker Purdue Pharma to conduct a study, offering the company an incentive to extend its patent for six months on OxyContin which would translate into huge profits.
The study's criteria on its 154 patients include:
- The child must be between six and 16 years old
- Must be suffering from moderate to severe pain
- Must already be receiving treatment with opioids
Dr. Gabrielle Gold-Von Simson is one of the lead trial investigators. "It's not fair to the child to withhold a treatment that can help them recover and feel better and be productive," said Dr. Gold Von-Simson.
Jeannie Karlitz's son has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. His chronic condition is managed without OxyContin but Karlitz says the study would help parents and doctors make more informed decisions.
"Worrying about the teen getting addicted to OxyContin, because of the clinical trials with children, it's so silly because one thing has nothing to do with each other," says Karlitz.
One recovering OxyContin addict disagrees. He worries the study could lead to more addiction. He got hooked at 18 after a doctor prescribed the painkiller following a baseball injury.
"It's a fine line between is this gonna help or is this gonna create more chaos in the future," said the recovering addict.
First introduced in the late 1990s, OxyContin was promoted as nearly addiction proof. Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to label misbranding and paid $635 million in penalites and reformulated OxyContin.
As fro the study, Purdue says it's not trying to market the drug to children but says the study will look at the "...safety and efficacy in pediatric patients to clinicians who may consider using the product in children with moderate to severe chronic pain."