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How the Reformulation of OxyContin Ignited the Heroin Epidemic

Author

Listed:
  • William N. Evans

    (University of Notre Dame and NBER)

  • Ethan M. J. Lieber

    (University of Notre Dame)

  • Patrick Power

    (Boston University)

Abstract

We attribute the recent quadrupling of heroin death rates to the August 2010 reformulation of an oft-abused prescription opioid, OxyContin. The new abuse-deterrent formulation led many consumers to substitute an inexpensive alternative, heroin. Using structural break techniques and variation in substitution risk, we find that opioid consumption stops rising in August 2010, heroin deaths begin climbing the following month, and growth in heroin deaths was greater in areas with greater prereformulation access to heroin and opioids. The reformulation did not generate a reduction in combined heroin and opioid mortality: each prevented opioid death was replaced with a heroin death.

Suggested Citation

  • William N. Evans & Ethan M. J. Lieber & Patrick Power, 2019. "How the Reformulation of OxyContin Ignited the Heroin Epidemic," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 101(1), pages 1-15, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:101:y:2019:i:1:p:1-15
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    File URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/rest_a_00755
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Abby Alpert & David Powell & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, 2018. "Supply-Side Drug Policy in the Presence of Substitutes: Evidence from the Introduction of Abuse-Deterrent Opioids," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 1-35, November.
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    5. Thomas C. Buchmueller & Colleen Carey, 2018. "The Effect of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs on Opioid Utilization in Medicare," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 77-112, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets

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