I was listening to NPR this week and heard the announcer talking about a big medical news story that pricked up my ears. We talk to EmpowHER readers about pain medication options all the time, as well as side effects and the potential for abuse.
Now, the FDA have approved a new pain medication that even its manufacturers agree needs strict monitoring.
The medication is called Zohydro and one pill could kill a child. Two could cause an overdose in adults. Yet it is being put on the market weeks from now.
Zohydro is an opioid containing hydrocodone, a very common active ingredient in pain medications like Vicodin and Percocet. But Zohydro is different in that just one dose packs an especially powerful punch, up to 10 times that of standard opioids.
The makers of the drug, a company called Zogenix, have said that they believe their product is safe when used as prescribed. They plan on working with only certain doctors in the beginning, to make sure that the medication is being given to the right patients who are suffering from severe and chronic pain.
From a recent CNN article on the topic, Dr. Brad Galer, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Zogenix, said in an e-mail, "We do not expect the introduction of Zohydro ER (extended release) to increase the overall use of opioids. In fact, prescription data from the last five years shows that total use of ER opioids is constant and independent of new entrants to the market."
One of the problems with Zohydro is the level of its potency (far stronger than what's on the market right now). Another problem is that it can be crushed and snorted, which makes it appealing to some drug abusers for a strong and fast high. Snorting just a few lines could be deadly.
Worried that this could be another OxyContin (a highly abused pain medication with the nickname "hillbilly heroin") fiasco, doctors are trying to reverse FDA approval. Nearly thirty state attorneys, and members of congress are also vying for a reversal.
But the FDA have gone ahead and approved it, despite the FDA's own panel of advisors saying it should not receive approval.