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Cancer Drug Gaining Popularity on Streets

May 27, 2004  | 

Fairly new to the Philadelphia streets are “perc-a-pops,” which Philadelphia police started to identify last summer, says Capt. Chris Werner, who commands the Philadelphia Police Department’s narcotics investigative unit. A perc-a-pop looks like a lollipop, but it’s really a prescription drug that contains the painkiller fentanyl, an opioid.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration under the name “Actiq,” perc-a-pops are manufactured by Cephalon, Inc. to control breakthrough pain for those cancer patients already taking narcotics on a regular basis. The manufacturer warns in its appropriate label that drug users who are not opioid tolerant are in danger of life-threatening hypoventilation.

Werner admits that it was difficult to identify the illegal sale of perc-a-pops because of the misleading appearance of the drug, which is a lozenge on a stick applied to the cheek lining.

Although the Philadelphia Police Department is not currently conducting any investigations on perc-a-pops, Werner has identified that teenagers seem to be the main illicit users.

He says although perc-a-pops aren’t as wide spread as Xanax or Oxy-Contin abuse, there is still a potential problem. “We’re continuously attempting to identify and address the illegal sale of the perc-a-pops, but it’s not something we’re doing to the exclusion of everything else. It’s still an available narcotic that we need to focus on.”

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