New Vicodin draws activist fire amid opioid abuse epidemic

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 ā€“ including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma ā€“ are already working on their own versions of Zohydro. Hydrocodone is currently the second most-abused medicine in the U.S. behind oxycodone.

About Erin Marie Daly

Iā€™m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
This entry was posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Policy & Regulation, Trends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to New Vicodin draws activist fire amid opioid abuse epidemic

  1. laurel fen says:

    Erin, sorry for your loss-but sadly, your brother’s addiction and ultimate death was your brother’s own fault. Was your brother trying to function with chronic pain, or just looking for that ultimate high? Studies and statistics have shown that those who take opiates for an actual problem DO NOT become “addicts”, it is those who choose to abuse drugs/alcohol/etc. that end up dead. Do you know how much death/disability/mental anguish is caused by the struggle to deal with chronic pain? It’s people such as your brother that make it so difficult for legitimate chronic pain patients to get help, and the reason so many just give up, lose their jobs, their families, their lives because the medical community is afraid to properly treat them-all because of people such as your brother that abuse these medicines that so many need to function. We wouldn’t outlaw cars or cell phones because irresponsible young people feel the need to abuse these items resulting in killing and maiming so many, and we shouldn’t outlaw what could be the key to many people finding a treatment that could lead to a productive life again after being unable to maintain one for a long time. Companies are trying to find a way to produce medications that are “abuse proof”, by adding narcotic antagonists that release when crushed or abused, but people like your brother are finding a way to offset even that safety measure, so let’s put the blame where the blame belongs instead of punishing an entire group of decent people because so many like your brother refuse to stop their quest for the ultimate high. I agree that the horrible epidemic of prescription drug abuse needs to be stopped, but that entails stopping the abusers-jail time with an immediate withdrawal would be a good start here, and perhaps they wouldn’t be so anxious to start up again on their release.

  2. Chris says:

    Amen Laurel! I COMPLETELY agree! My wife became disabled in 2005 due to a ruptured disc while working as a nurse specializing in pediatric ventilator & Trach. patients. Something she believed in and felt she was doing it to do her part to help people in need have a better quality of life. She went to the Dr. and found that she had a bulging disc that was also pinching her sciatic nerve. The Dr. said MLD (Micro Lumbar Discectomy) and your back to work in 6-8 weeks. Surgery failed and created an even bigger problem. Long story short 9 years later she has 6 deteriorated discs in total. 3 Lumbar and 3 Cervical not to mention sciatica, & depression as well. She was a VERY hard worker all her life and next to family her work meant everything to her. To boot, the loobist in Washington see it to it that fatcat insurance companies can get away with murder. We lost EVERYTHING. Almost including the dream home we had saved for nearly 20 years to build and was literally in the middle of construction of. I myself have worked in the mental health field for the better part of 12 years in the early part of my career. I can tell you from experience I have more than once seen that look in her eye of pure hopelessness and on the verge of giving up. She is now on a combination of meds that at least keep her from being suicidal and gives her the ability to at least enjoy some things in life on a limited level. Now, lets fast forward 8 years. I myself was ran over at work from a defective golf cart rupturing my L-5 L-4, C-5 C-6, damaging my sacriatic joint, and tearing my rotator cuff. Now guess what? I have to take meds as well. Something I refused all my life because I was a John Wayne type fella. I have had numerous broken bones, deep cut injuries during my life and always refused pain meds because I too thought “ahhh those are for pillheads”. Well I can tell you THEY ARE NOT!!! If I had to live everyday with this and nothing to help cope I’d just eat a bullet. I also have always been a hard worker and an outdoors man so ALL of that has been stripped from us. You compound all those problems then take away a medication that might be able to help you enjoy life at some level? Shame on you. This reminds me so much the same as the debate about guns. Guns do not kill people. People kill people. Not everyone who takes pain meds abuses them.

    • Chris says:

      I was not off my soapbox yet! It is people like you, and people with websites like these that make my wife and I feel so ashamed to walk into a Doctors office or a Pharmacy for no justified reason. You need to get your priorities straight and go after the cause of the addictions and the deaths and the so forth and so on. PEOPLE! Stop being part of a society that refuses to take responsibility and just blames every little problem on the tools or the circumstances. Just like guns, taking the drugs away is not the solution. If you do that just like guns only criminals will have them. The rest of us would just suffer. I mean do you want to drop the deaths by car wrecks and overdoses of criminals just to watch the suicides of good honest people go up who have lost the will to live due to some injury? Get real! There needs to be reform alright but it needs to be a sociological reform, a crack down on criminals and Doctors who abuse the system. Stopping pain medication is not the answer and would be counter productive in my opinion. It will hurt people who need it, slow R&D because it becomes taboo, etc, etc… Ok, I’m off my soapbox now. I will give one last Irrefutable fact I’ve learned over the last 9 years. Do not get involved if you’ve never been in this position. šŸ˜‰

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