Painkiller 10 times stronger than Vicodin worries addiction experts - HealthPop
As pharmaceutical companies are approaching the final stages of development for a new type of painkiller said to be 10 times stronger than Vicodin, addiction experts worry a new wave of abuse may soon follow.
Four companies have begun patient testing on the pills which contain a pure version of the highly addictive painkiller hydrocodone, and one of them - Zogenix of San Diego - plans to apply early next year to begin marketing its product, Zohydro.
If approved, it would mark the first time patients could legally buy pure hydrocodone. Existing products combine the drug with nonaddictive painkillers such as acetaminophen.
Hydrocodone belongs to family of drugs known as opiates or opioids because they are chemically similar to opium. They include morphine, heroin, oxycodone, codeine, and methadone.
Critics are especially worried about Zohydro, a timed-release drug meant for managing moderate to severe pain, because abusers could crush it for an intense, immediate high.
“I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin,” said April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. “We just don’t need this on the market.”
OxyContin, introduced in 1995 by Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn., was designed to manage pain with a formula that dribbled one dose of oxycodone over many hours. Abusers quickly discovered they could defeat the timed-release feature by crushing the pills. Purdue Pharma changed the formula to make the pill more tamper-resistant, but addicts have moved onto generic oxycodone and other drugs that are not time-released.
Oxycodone is now the most-abused medicine in the U.S., with hydrocodone second, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The latest drug studies come as more pharmaceutical companies are getting into the $10 billion-a-year legal market for powerful yet highly addictive opioid narcotics.
“It’s like the wild west,” said Peter Jackson, co-founder of Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids. “The whole supply-side system is set up to perpetuate this massive unloading of opioid narcotics on the American public.”