How did we get ourselves into this fix?

You want a description of hell? "OxyContin’s 12-hour problem."

That was the dramatic headline on a Los Angeles Times article following a special investigation by its journalists.

The article focused on claims made by the drug’s original patent-holder and manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, when the modified release formulation of oxycodone was launched in the US in 1996, that one OxyContin tablet before bed and one in the morning would provide “smooth and sustained pain control all day and all night”.

This, according to the investigation, masked the problem that the analgesic effects of OxyContin can wear off before 12 hours in many chronic pain sufferers, providing “the perfect recipe for addiction”.

Associate Professor Malcolm Hogg, head of pain services at Melbourne Health and a spokesman for Pain Australia, recognises that the benefits of OxyContin (sponsored in