Under pressure from activists and other critics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced new safety labeling changes for extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics such as OxyContin.
According to the agency, the changes are aimed at combatting “the crisis of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death from these potent drugs that have harmed too many patients and devastated too many families and communities.”
The updated labels must state that such medications are indicated for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment.
In addition, because of the risk of addiction and abuse “even at recommended doses,” as well as the greater risks of overdose and death, the drugs must be labeled as “reserved for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options (e.g., non-opioid analgesics or immediate-release opioids) are ineffective, not tolerated, or would be otherwise inadequate to provide sufficient management of pain,” the agency said.
The FDA’s move was met with skepticism by some activists who were concerned the changes do not go far enough. Pete Jackson, the president of Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids, said the development could be viewed as either a step in the right direction or as “another smokescreen put out by the FDA to make it look like they are doing something.”
“They still authorize the use of opioids for long-term chronic opioid therapy, they have not addressed immediate-release opioids such as Vicodin, they still have not addressed the misclassification of hydrocodone combination products, and they still have a weak and voluntary prescriber education program,” he said. “Thus, regardless of how one views this labeling change, they are sitting on a lot of important actions that could save lives.”