San Diego-based Zogenix Inc.’s bid for FDA approval to begin marketing Zohydro – a new version of pure, extended-release hydrocodone that is said to be 10 times more powerful than Vicodin – has prompted some activists to appeal to the agency not to rubber-stamp more opioid drugs in the midst of an out-of-control epidemic. Proponents of extended-release versions of opioids – such as Purdue Pharma’s recently reformulated OxyContin, OP – claim the drugs are safer because they are “abuse-resistant,” but others point out that many opioid-addicted people simply swallow the pills whole. (Addicts are also already finding their way around allegedly tamper-proof versions.)
One group, Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids, has launched a letter-writing campaign urging the FDA not to sign off on more opioids. According to ARPO president Pete Jackson, the approval of extended-release hydrocodone will only exacerbate the opioid addiction epidemic, which killed nearly 15,000 Americans in 2008, surpassing the number of deaths due to car accidents. “It boggles the mind that, with the steadily rising toll of death and addiction from prescription opioids that has gone on unabated for more than ten years, we could be facing the approval of still more potent narcotic pain relievers in the form of pure, extended-release hydrocodone,” Jackson says. “It makes NO sense for the FDA to approve more deadly opioids at a time when they have not figured out how to stop the carnage from the opioids already on the market. This will add thousands to the annual death toll.”
Read ARPO’s letter to the FDA here.
Other pharmaceutical companies – including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma – are already working on their own versions of Zohydro. Hydrocodone is currently the second most-abused medicine in the U.S. behind oxycodone.