How the Reformulation of Oxycontin Ignited the Heroin Epidemic

54 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2018

See all articles by William N. Evans

William N. Evans

University of Notre Dame; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Ethan M.J. Lieber

University of Notre Dame

Patrick Power

Boston University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 1, 2018

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 to 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 pre-reformulation 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.

JEL Classification: I12, I18, K42

Suggested Citation

Evans, William N. and Lieber, Ethan and Power, Patrick, How the Reformulation of Oxycontin Ignited the Heroin Epidemic (March 1, 2018). Review of Economics and Statistics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3195807

William N. Evans

University of Notre Dame ( email )

913 Flanner Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46530
United States
574-631-7039 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ethan Lieber (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame ( email )

3049 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

Patrick Power

Boston University

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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