The Food and Drug Administration is set to release a new painkiller, Zohydro, that some say will take lives just as its opioid predecessors have done time and time again. This new pill, which will become available in March, has many in outrage. Since the FDA’s approval of the “killer” pill in 2013, medical professionals, consumer advocacy groups, addiction experts, and even state attorneys have all written letters and called for the revocation of this potentially addicting and deadly drug.
One or two pills of Zohydro, which contains a much higher level of hydrocodone than your average painkiller, could potentially kill a child or an adult that has not developed a tolerance. In looking at the statistics laid out by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, one can see that opioid-related deaths have skyrocketed since the late 1990’s. In fact, the FDA has released statements of its own, regarding concern for the rise in abuse of such drugs.
Still, the FDA is working with Zohydro’s manufacturer, Zogenix, to get this new drug out to the public by the spring. An executive at Zogenix has declared the painkiller should not have any increased effect on the overall usage of opioids. Apparently, only a specific set of highly knowledgeable doctors will be allowed to handle the drug for certain patients with severe chronic illness. However, contradictory to such a notion is the idea that in order to make this drug cost-effective it must be marketed much more widely than initially advertised. This has been pointed out by Washington State physician Dr. Stephen Anderson, only one of many professionals extremely worried about the introduction of yet another hydrocodone based pill to the market.
Zogenix and the FDA are claiming the benefits of Zohydro outweigh the risks. Dr. Brad Galer, an executive at Zogenix, recently stated, “…prescription data from the last five years shows that total use of ER opioids is constant and independent of new entrants to the market.” Although the painkiller will come with warnings, many doctors and pain specialists are not “buying it”. Some medical professionals are even saying that opioids are an ineffective treatment for chronic pain as they simply lead to a higher tolerance and over-reliance on such addicting substances. The long list advocacy groups concerned about Zohydro believe this new drug to be just another potential killer of users and abusers. Many doctors are particularly irked by the introduction of this new drug because it can easily be crushed – a factor that may lead quickly to abuse and overdose.
Because Zohydro contains an exceedingly high dose of hydrocodone, physicians like Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of the advocacy group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, are warning: “[Zohydro] will kill people as soon as it’s released.” Of course, as with all addictive prescription pain medications, there is also the risk of illegal street usage. Drugs such as Zohydro actually contain a form of heroin. One can imagine why this may pose a societal threat. Without supervision, and a flagrant misuse of drugs such as Zohydro, the opioid-related death toll could rise significantly in the near future.
By Josh Taub