Zohydro – New Drug Causes Concern

“It will kill people as soon as it’s released.” This statement was made last fall by Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of the advocacy group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. It appeared in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration written by a coalition of more than 40 health care, consumer and addiction treatment groups. The topic: the FDA’s controversial decision to approve Zohydro, a new hydrocodone-based drug. Like heroin, this drug is opiate-based; it is five times more potent than Vicodin and Loritab.  The potential for abuse and addiction is astronomical.
Currently, 120 million opioid prescriptions are filled each year. They are by far the most commonly abused prescription medications in the U.S.

The truth is, we are right in the middle of a prescription drug use disorder epidemic; deaths from overdose have quadrupled since 1999. And yet, despite efforts by the medical community to revoke approval, this drug became available to consumers in March of this year.

Why place yet another drug that carries enormous abuse potential on the market? Supporters indicate that physicians need more tools in their toolboxes to treat the most extreme cases of pain such as post-surgical back pain, extreme trauma or cancer. Those standing in opposition claim that it is all about the bottom line and the millions of dollars that such a drug will bring to pharmaceutical companies.

As far as I am concerned, the last thing we need is another potent prescription pain medication with such highly addictive properties –especially in today’s clinical environment in which prescriptions are regularly written by woefully under-educated and under-trained physicians. These are not “bad” doctors who intend harm; they are simply people who do not have the training or accountability to identify addiction risk, or even active addiction.
Of course, patients with little to no addiction risk can probably use this drug safely. But even someone with a relatively low risk of substance use disorder is a strong candidate for addiction, abuse, and very possibly, death, given the properties of this medication.