For those people who require daily, around-the-clock pain management that other drugs are not able to address, Zohydro is a boon. It will offer an alternative opioid. People respond differently to different opioids. A different opioid, therefore, becomes another way to manage severe pain.
Zohydro is a controlled-release medication. This is a necessary feature for those who suffer from 24/7 debilitating pain. Also, it does not contain acetaminophen, an ingredient that has been shown to cause liver problems in high doses. Combination painkillers, meaning the ones containing acetaminophen, have lower amounts of the ingredient that is actually doing the job of killing the pain, which are the opioids. Therefore, the amount of opioid that some people would need in order to manage their pain, if they are using combination painkillers to do it, forces them to ingest acetaminophen at levels that would damage their liver.
Patients trying to manage their pain do not automatically skip merrily down the path of ingesting opioid meds. Rather, they grudgingly trudge down it. First, they usually try every other pain management treatment in existence. Then, with frustration and trepidation, they give in and resort to the opioids because they are only thing that works. Pain, if it is overwhelming enough, can easily outweigh the risk of addiction. If it is severe enough, it becomes problematic to consider what, exactly, it would not outweigh.
Doctors say that opioids work best when easing end-of-life suffering and for short-term, acute and severe pain. When taken over the long run, however, medical professionals warn that there is great risk of developing tolerance and becoming addicted to opioids. But if they are the only thing that works for debilitating pain, what other choice does the patient have than to use them?
When the FDA approved Zohydro in November of 2013, they issued a news release. In that news release, the FDA states that Zohydro offers prescribers “an additional therapeutic option to treat pain.” The news release goes on to say that this additional option is important because different opioids create different responses in individuals. If what the FDA says is true, that individuals respond to various opioids in various ways, then a patient who does not respond well to one opioid may respond better to another. Now, one of those alternatives will be Zohydro.
Zohydro is worrisome for those in the field of addiction because of its similarity to Oxycontin, a famously addictive and abused prescription drug. The main difference between the two is the opioid’s derivative. Zohydro is based on hydrocone, which is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from the two naturally-occurring opiates codeine and/or thebaine. Oxycontin is based on oxycodone, another semi-synthetic opioid that is derived only from thebaine. Both have a controlled-release feature. Both do not contain liver-damaging acetaminophen. Zohydro ER capsules come in either 10-50 mg of hydrocodone bitartrate USP along with some inactive ingredients. Oxycontin capsules come in 10-80 mg of oxycodone hydrochloride USP along with some inactive ingredients. Between the two, oxycodone is seen as being a relatively stronger alternative to hydrocodone, with 5mg of oxycodone a rough equivalent to 7.5 of hydrocodone.
People, organizations, and addiction specialists too numerous to name are opposed to the FDA’s approval of Zohydro. Almost all cite addiction and overdose statistics for Oxycontin, Zohydro’s closest correlate, as their primary objection to its approval. They say that the existence of other opioids that contain no acetaminophen and have a controlled-release feature renders the need for Zohydro null and void. However, per the FDA, another variation of an opioid is important. It is a valid enough contribution to warrant approval. Those in pain and not responding well to existing opioids might agree with that assessment.