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FDA Okays Another ‘Abuse-Resistant’ Painkiller

A new narcotic pain medication with abuse-resistant properties was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, making it the fourth anti-abuse painkiller to get the green light from the organization.

Whether or not these new drugs will have a positive impact on the addiction epidemic is yet to be seen.

The Influx of Abuse Deterrent Drugs

Hysingla ER, made by Purdue Pharma, L.P., is a hydrocodone-based painkiller designed to be taken daily for chronic pain issues. Although Hysingla could still technically be abused, the chances for addiction are much smaller since it’s not possible for the drug to be snorted or injected. Users who try to crush the hard pill will find that it turns gooey.

Last year, the FDA approved an abuse-deterrent form of Oxycontin, eventually taking the previous form off the market. Purdue also received FDA approval for Targiniq ER, a similar form of abuse-resistant oxycodone, last July, while an abuse-deterrent morphine drug known as Embeda, made by Pfizer, will be available next year. Embeda was previously on the market, but recalled in 2011 due to manufacturing issues.

Can these Drugs Impact Addiction Rates?

“…statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that prescription opioid deaths have quadrupled since 1999…”
These new anti-abuse efforts are crucial, as painkiller abuse has grown to become an epidemic throughout the U.S. In fact, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that prescription opioid deaths have quadrupled since 1999, from 4,030 in 1999 to 16,651 in 2010.

Zogenix, makers of the opiate painkiller Zohydro, also submitted an application to the FDA last month to begin making an abuse-deterrent form of the drug.

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Meeting Skepticism and Criticism

Zogenix has been in the spotlight ever since Zohydro hit the market last March. Negative attention amplified after news broke that the company’s own expert panel had recommended the drug not be made available to the public.

Zohydro is up to five times stronger than any other opioid pain management medication currently on the market, including Vicodin and Oxycontin. Because it’s easily crushable and snortable, medical professionals have expressed serious concerns that the medication is ripe for abuse.

“It will kill people,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of the advocacy group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. “It’s a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick even went so far as to impose a statewide ban on Zohydro after declaring a public health emergency, but the ban was quickly overturned. U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel said Patrick was “out of line” for taking action against a drug that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the end, however, Patrick was able to pass legislation that requires doctors to complete a risk assessment and obtain a signed patient pain management treatment agreement before drugs like Zohydro can be prescribed.

Photo Source: istock