A few months ago, we wrote about Zohydro – the controversial painkiller approved by the FDA last October. Despite its controversy and attempts to block its release, the opiate hits the market this week. Health care and addiction recovery advocates are still pushing for an appeal, as they fear widespread abuse of the painkiller while opiate abuse has reached epidemic levels in the US.
The controversy over Zohydro lies in the fact that it is a pure hydrocodone drug, without acetaminophen or other drugs added to it, making it 5 times stronger than other popularly abused opiates. In addition, it is crushable when most crushable painkillers were taken off the market a few years ago. Large scale efforts were made to remanufacture opiates like Percocet and OxyContin to make them unable to be crushed, snorted or injected. Zohydro undoes these efforts and puts health care advocates on edge thinking about the eminent widespread abuse and overdose potential of Zohydro.
Zogenix, the manufacturers behind Zohydro said they plan on releasing a non-crushable version of the opiate but that it would take 3 years before hitting the shelves. Considering prescription opioid deaths have quadrupled since 1999, 3 years is not soon enough.
Given that Zohydro is 5 times stronger than other opiates, “It will kill people as soon as it’s released,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny who serves as president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. Kolodny adds, “It’s a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule.”
Adding to its controversy, many question how such a dangerous drug got approved in the first place when an advisory committee voted against it by 11-2. Questioning this, U.S. senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and David Vitter (R-LA) have actually started a bribery investigation aimed at an FDA official who they claim accepted money from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for a seat on an FDA advisory panel meeting for Zohydro.
Although necessary, bribery investigations and a 3-year release plan of a non-crushable version of Zohydro will do little to prevent abuse and overdose. That is why Harmony Foundation is unwavering in its efforts in providing the best addiction treatment and relapse prevention services for opiate abusers. We aim to put a dent in the soaring number of overdose deaths from opiates and help clients seeking opiate addition treatment live opiate free.