New Pain Pill, Zohydro–Boon or Not?
The CDC reports that over 36,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2008, and most deaths were attributed to prescription pills. Or, here’s another statistic: experts calculate that in the last ten years, more than 100,000 people have died from drug overdoses involving opioids like hydrocodone. Death rates are more than three times what they were in 1990 and are at their highest yet.
Now, in a major policy shift, just as the FDA is finally recommending tighter restrictions on painkillers (much to the relief of many people who worked hard to see this happen), it has also approved a new pain medication: Zohydro.
You wonder how something like this can happen. Bloomberg.com provided a succinct announcement and explained that Zohydro is pure hydrocodone and is designed for “continuous, long-term treatment” but not acute pain. It uses extended release technology. Zohenix, the manufacturer, pitches it as an alternative to drugs like Vicodin that include hydrocodone mixed with medications such as acetaminophen. (Vicodin is the brand name for this combination of drugs.) Oxycodone, according to Examiner, is sold as a standalone painkiller, but it is also combined with acetaminophen in Percocet, for one. So now both drugs will be offered in standalone and in combined form.
You might want to sit down for this tidbit. The Bloomberg article said that the FDA “asked Zogenix to study the drug’s abuse potential while it’s on the market.” Many people may find that bolting the door after the horse has escaped. The Examiner article is worried that drug abusers may crush it to snort it, or dissolve it in water so they can inject it.
Let’s again address the fact that there are valid reasons for pain medications, for many people who are in terrible pain. IF you’ve ever had pain that’s over the top, day after day, you know what that’s like. For this reason, some doctors and pain patients are not happy that Zogeniz is being criticized for adding this drug to the stable of pain meds. But many addiction experts say that the epidemic proportions of the abuse are so great that we must err on the side of caution.
Here’s what Dr. Kenneth Blum, MBRC’s advisor on neuroscience, says about the advent of Zohydro:
“[This is] another added problem in the pain endemic global marketplace. While the pure form of hydrocodone will indeed reduce severe pain, without any tamper-proof technology, Zogeniz is asking for real trouble and significant enhanced diversion. [It’s yet another way for people to abuse prescription medications and become addicted.]
This may be good news for Zogenix, but not for the world. There is already so much iatrogenic- [or doctor-] induced addiction, so why do we need more? While the addiction to pain killers continues to grow, this new drug will only make it worse. Physicians in pain clinics need a genetic diagnosis to weed out those at risk of addiction before even thinking about prescribing this new powerful opioid drug. No applauds from my point of view.”
Shares of Zogeniz rose on the announcement. At least with the new FDA recommendations, users will only be able to get a 90-day supply and then they have to see their doctor again.