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September 22, 1975

Propoxyphene Overdose Deaths

Author Affiliations

Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Chapel Hill, NC

JAMA. 1975;233(12):1257. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03260120019002

To the Editor.—  We are observing an alarming increase in North Carolina in the number of deaths attributable to propoxyphene. We doubt that the phenomenon is peculiar to this state. Most physicians may not be aware of the problem, in spite of the article in THE JOURNAL by Sturner and Garriott (223:1125, 1973).This state's Medical Examiner System detected 21 deaths in 1972 and 21 in 1973 attributable to propoxyphene. Thirteen such deaths were identified in the first half of 1974, and 17 more in the last half of that year. In the first three months of 1975, sixteen more deaths have been recorded. In comparison, there has been an average of 39 barbiturate deaths annually from 1971 to 1974. There have been only three barbiturate deaths during the first quarter of this year, when there were 16 propoxyphene deaths. Most of the propoxyphene deaths have been suicidal overdoses; some