Diversion of Oxycontin

Since pharmaceuticals containing oxycodone are controlled substances requiring a prescription, a variety of illegal techniques are used to obtain the drug. Pharmacy diversion, dishonest physicians, “doctor shopping,” fraudulent prescriptions, and robbery all contribute to the presence of diverted pharmaceuticals on the illicit market.

Physicians and Pharmacists – The Major Sources

Illegal acts by physicians and pharmacists are the primary sources of diverted pharmaceuticals available on the illicit market. In many cases, they create fraudulent prescriptions to obtain the drug for personal use or to provide associates with a supply of the drug for distribution purposes. To date, many physicians, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians who have been illegally prescribing or diverting the narcotic OxyContin have been identified or arrested throughout the United States.

Doctor Shopping

One of the most popular ways to obtain prescription narcotics is through “doctor shopping.” Individuals with real or fabricated ailments visit numerous doctors in an attempt to obtain prescription narcotics like OxyContin, Percocet, and Percodan. In many cases, certain physicians have earned reputations among abusers for easily dispensing prescriptions. An individual may obtain many prescriptions in a short period of time and get them filled at various pharmacies for personal use and/or distribution.

Robberies, Burglaries, and Thefts

With the abuse of OxyContin on the rise, law enforcement authorities throughout the United States are reporting an increase in the number of burglaries, thefts, and robberies of pharmacies and residences. According to authorities, homes are being robbed and individuals are being targeted for their supplies of OxyContin. In some pharmacy thefts, only OxyContin is stolen.

From 2000 to mid-2001, the greatest number of OxyContin pharmacy thefts occurred in Pennsylvania followed by Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, and Georgia. Employees of the Purdue Pharma L.P. manufacturing section have also been arrested for stealing large amounts of OxyContin.

Illicit Internet Distribution

Internet websites are potential sources for the diversion of prescription narcotics and other pharmaceutically controlled substances. Websites designed to facilitate the distribution of illicit drugs and diverted pharmaceuticals, including OxyContin, are becoming increasingly popular with illicit drug dealers. These sites allow dealers or individual users to place orders for drugs and pharmaceuticals, and sometimes use encryption software to thwart law enforcement investigations.


The profit margin associated with the illicit sale of OxyContin is enormous. Legitimate prices for OxyContin generally range from $.09 to $.13 per milligram compared to illicit prices of up to $1 per milligram. For example, an 80-mg tablet that costs approximately $7 to $8 in a pharmacy can sell for between $50 and $80 illicitly. Therefore, a 100-tablet bottle of 80-mg strength OxyContin purchased legally for approximately $750 can sell for $5,000 to $8,000 illicitly. Law enforcement reporting indicates that the most commonly diverted dosages of OxyContin are the 40-mg and 80-mg varieties.

OXYCONTIN:  Price per tablet

Licit Retail
Illicit Retail
$5 - $12
$10 - $20
$30 - $40
$50 - $80
$60 - $160
Sources: Federal, state, local law enforcement authorities and pharmacists


OxyContin abuse and diversion will continue to spread throughout the United States. The popularity of OxyContin and oxycodone-related pharmaceuticals, coupled with large profit margins from the illicit market, increases the probability of future abuse and crimes associated with the drug. OxyContin abuse and diversion will continue to pose a significant problem for law enforcement authorities throughout the United States.