The Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a high narcotic, powerful painkiller called Zohydro that is said to be 5 to 10 times stronger than similar drugs like Vicodin. Addiction experts are protesting this approval because of the potential of a drug like this to contribute to an ever growing national epidemic of prescription drug abuse. In spite of an FDA advisory panel advising against the approval of Zohydro, it was approved in October and has since caused controversy among addiction specialists who are concerned about the repercussions of the availability of the drug to patients.
Deterring Abuse in New Painkillers
Even many doctors are surprised by the approval of this highly potent drug after being overwhelmingly voted against by the panel at 11 to 2. The FDA panel advised against the approval of Zohydro because of its enormous potential for abuse. The decision by the FDA to okay the drug’s use has led to 28 states attorneys general sending a letter asking to either revoke the approval or reformulate the drug to make it more difficult to abuse. Unlike new versions of drugs like Oxycontin, the narcotic Zohydro is not made with a formulation designed to deter abuse. These types of formulations make it more difficult to tamper with or crush the drug so that it cannot be snorted or dissolved for injected. Without this kind of deterrent, potent painkillers entering the market can lead to a wave of abuse.
Controversy with Zohydro’s Manufacturer
Another troubling controversy has been an issue following the approval of the drug. Zohydro is going to be manufactured by Alkermes, a company that makes a popular medication to treat painkiller addiction called Vivitrol. The different roles that the company plays in the world of narcotics has come under fire by critics concerned about the financial links between them and the drug industry. Alkermes has recently been attempting to increase sales of their medication, Vivitrol which treats both opioid addiction and alcoholism. The company is currently evaluating their role in connection with Zohydro which it did not own initially and the group was not involved in getting approval in the U.S. They acquired the drug along with another manufacturer known as Zogenix which will closely monitor use of the drug for signs of possible abuse and is in the process of developing a version that will be less prone to abuse. Unfortunately, develop a new formulation could take years to complete.
The new painkiller Zohydro is the first single-ingredient hydrocodone drug ever cleared for use among patients in the U.S. Before the recent FDA approval, hydrocodone was only available in combination with other non-addictive pain relievers like acetaminophen as is the case with Vicodin. The extra ingredients included in those drugs are thought to make them more difficult to abuse although this concept is under discussion. Hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed drugs in the country and also represents one of the most heavily abused drugs as well.
Hydrocodone drugs like Zohydro are opioid drugs which are known to be dangerously addictive and also have a high potential for overdose. Deaths related to painkiller overdose have been on the rise recently because of the issues of abuse that still run rampant in the U.S. In the opinion of many addiction experts, the approval of a drug like Zohydro will only serve to increase the level of painkiller addiction that is already a source of major concern in the country. Even though these types of drugs are meant to treat patients with chronic pain, they can be easy to obtain for people who end up abusing them and ultimately becoming seriously addicted.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.