Police: Bust eliminated older OxyContin pills

Posted Jan. 14, 2011, at 9:52 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Police who seized $25,000 worth of OxyContin OC pills from a Rockport home on Tuesday said Friday that the drug bust cleaned out the area’s supply of the off-market pills. The reduced supply had already led to a spike in heroin abuse in the area, police said.

Michael Rainville, 27, of Rockland was arrested Tuesday for felony drug trafficking and has since been released from Knox County Jail on $10,000 unsecured bail.

Rainville apparently was not acting alone and more arrests are pending, police said.

“As far as the old-style OxyContin on the street, there is no one else who has that for sale around here at all,” said James Pease, supervisor of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency’s Mid-Coast Regional Task Force Office. Referring to Rainville and the other suspects who have yet to be arrested, Pease added Friday, “They were influencing the area with these pills. They were making a lot of money doing it. They were bringing pills you aren’t even able to get any more.”

Pharmaceutical companies stopped making OxyContin OC pills months ago, according to a press release about the bust issued by the Department of Public Safety on Friday. The drug was replaced with OxyContin OP, which police said is harder to abuse.

OxyContin is the brand name for a long-acting narcotic painkiller for chronic illnesses such as cancer that was first introduced in 1995, according to multiple media sources.

While OxyContin was designed to be swallowed whole and digested over a 12-hour period, drug addicts learned they could experience a heroin-like high by crushing or dissolving the pills and then swallowing, snorting or injecting the ingredients.

Purdue Pharma LP, which manufactures OxyContin, has since reformulated the drug to make it harder to crush and more difficult to dissolve. Since the Food and Drug Administration in April 2010 approved the new version for market, Purdue Pharma has stopped manufacturing the old product.

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency had been investigating Rainville for months, according to Friday’s press release. Then, on Jan. 11, police “intercepted a package that was destined for the house that contained 100 OxyContin OC” 80 milligram pills, the press release stated. The package was from out of state.

Pease would not say who the package was from, but said the case is under investigation and that more arrests will be made.

After intercepting the package, police obtained a search warrant for Rainville’s parents’ home on Rockland Street in Rockport, where the accused still periodically lives. At the home, police also found anabolic steroids, hypodermic needles and other pills.

While looking through the Rockport home, police found Rainville’s sister, Amanda Rainville, in possession of Suboxone, a medication used to treat opiate addiction. Since she did not have a prescription for the drug, she was summoned for misdemeanor possession, according to the release.

The decline in supply of old-style OxyContin apparently influenced prices in the midcoast area, according to the press release. The price of an old-style pill was about $100 last summer, but had skyrocketed to $250 per pill recently, police said.

With the old-style OxyContin stripped from the area, Pease said, police are already seeing “an influx in heroin” abuse.

“Due to OxyContin being remanufactured to the new OPs, which are harder to abuse, true addicts are finding that heroin is much easier and cheaper to get,” Pease said Friday. “We’re seeing more people bring heroin in to the midcoast.”

Rockland police, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police helped execute the search warrant that led to Michael Rainville’s arrest.

People with information about drug trafficking may call the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency at 594-6188.

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