Tag Archives: Vicodin

FDA moves for stricter hydrocodone controls

bunchofpillsThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended reclassifying hydrocodone-containing painkillers like Vicodin from Schedule III drugs to the more restrictive Schedule II, a move that would bring such medications in line with opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and morphine.

In January, an expert panel advising the FDA voted 19 to 10 in favor of the more stringent prescribing requirements. Proponents of the reclassification have noted hydrocodone’s abuse potential (such products are currently the most-abused prescription medicine behind oxycodone), while critics have argued that the move would hinder legitimate pain patients from obtaining treatment.

The reclassification must be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which will make a final scheduling decision.

Separately in September, the FDA announced new safety labeling changes for extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics such as OxyContin. 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.

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Drug-dependent newborn rate on the rise in Tenn.

babybottleDriven by the prescription drug addiction epidemic, Tennessee is seeing a dramatic rise in the number of newborns born dependent on drugs. In just slightly more than nine months this year, more babies in the state have been born dependent on drugs their mothers took during pregnancy than in all of 2011, according to this article. By the first week of October, 643 babies were born dependent, compared with 629 for all of 2011, and officials are projecting more than 800 drug dependent babies by the end of this year, the article says. The majority of these births involved a mother taking medicine prescribed by a health care provider, according to the article.

Newborns being born addicted to painkillers is yet another disturbing trend stemming from the rampant abuse of prescription drugs. Nationwide, the number of pregnant women who were dependent on or using opiates when they delivered increased from 4,839 in 2000 to 23,009 in 2009.

As a result, the incidence of babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of problems caused by maternal opiate use during pregnancy, has nearly tripled in the past decade. In 2009, the syndrome was diagnosed in newborns at a rate of 3.4 per 1,000 hospital births per year, up from 1.2 diagnoses per 1,000 births per year in 2000.

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VA over-prescribing narcotics to vets: report

soldier drugsEasy access to powerful prescription opiates has led to a rise in overdose deaths among war veterans, a new report has found. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average, for the past two years. Prescriptions for four opiates – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine – have surged by 270% in the past 12 years, CIR found in an analysis of data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to CIR:

The agency charged with helping veterans recover from war instead masks their pain with potent drugs, feeding addictions and contributing to a fatal overdose rate among VA patients that is nearly double the national average.

CIR notes that this spike in opiate prescriptions has occurred despite new VA regulations laid out in 2009 requiring clinicians to follow an “integrated approach” to helping veterans in pain, including a stronger focus on treating the root causes of pain rather than using powerful narcotics to reduce symptoms.

Many areas of the nation with military bases and large VA hospitals have seen prescription drug abuse skyrocket among American soldiers in recent years.

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Heroin stepping in for painkillers across the U.S.

pills and syringeLocally and across the nation, law enforcement officials have noted an increased use of heroin, which has become a cheaper alternative to legal opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone. In Grand Rapids, Mich., heroin has become so strong that it can be snorted, which eliminates a hurdle for needle-phobic users, according to this article. In less than four months, Grand Rapids Police have responded to three heroin-overdose deaths, and another 10 overdoses, the article says. Heroin is also on the rise up and down the West Coast, fueled in part by prescription drug abuse, according to this article. The article notes that prescription painkillers and heroin have the same effect on abusers, but heroin is usually cheaper and easier to get.

A recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed the number of heroin users across the country has risen from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 last year.

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Opioid prescriptions up, but pain treatment unimproved: study

PILLS.jpgPrescription opioid use has skyrocketed over the last decade, but the identification and treatment of pain has failed to improve – and the use of non-opioid analgesics has plateaued, or even declined, a new study has found.

The study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published Sept. 13 in the journal Medical Care, analyzed trends from 2000 to 2010 associated with patients seeking medical treatment for non-cancer pain, and found no significant change in the proportion of pain visits – approximately one-half – treated with pain relievers.

During that time period, opioid prescriptions nearly doubled, from 11% in 2000 to 19% in 2010, the study found. In addition, of approximately 164 million pain visits in 2010, roughly half were treated with some kind of pain relieving drug: 20% with an opioid and 27% with a non-opioid pain reliever, according to the study.

The information comes just after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new labeling changes and postmarket study requirements for extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics. 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.”

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FDA unveils new labeling rules for opioids

pill bottlesUnder 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.”

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Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates worldwide are skyrocketing: of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were due to painkillers, according to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet. And in the U.S., drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54, killing over 38,000 people in 2010; many of these deaths were caused by prescription opiates.

The painkiller addiction epidemic has also led to a rise in heroin abuse. A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.

As this editorial notes, despite the widespread nature of painkiller and heroin abuse, those who are addicted continue to be stigmatized.

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Pills cause most drug deaths globally: study

imgname--prescription_drug_abuse_on_the_rise---38647165--images--flickr_2931207680Although marijuana is the most popular illegal drug used worldwide, addiction to prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin kill the most people, according to the first-ever global survey of illicit drug abuse.

Of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were because of painkiller addictions, according to the study, which was published Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet.

For all the drugs studied, men in their 20s had the highest rates of abuse, while the worst-hit countries were the U.S., Australia, Britain, and Russia, the study found.

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Painkiller abuse taking lives of N.C. soldiers

soldier drugsPrescription drug abuse has skyrocketed among American soldiers in recent years, and this article out of North Carolina discusses some of the many casualties associated with the huge spike in opiate painkillers in the Fayetteville area since the country went to war more than a decade ago.

A Fayetteville Observer analysis of state and county records found that opiate painkillers contributed to 95 deaths in Cumberland County between 2008 and 2011, more than the previous eight years combined, according to the article. In the counties surrounding Fort Bragg — Hoke, Harnett, Lee, Moore and Cumberland — prescription opiates have been a contributing factor in at least 395 deaths since 2000, the article says.

Moreover, more oxycodone — the main ingredient in Percocet and other addictive painkillers — was sold at pharmacies in the Fayetteville area than anywhere else in North Carolina in 2011, according to the article, while the sale of hydrocodone ranked third-highest in the state.

And painkiller sales during the past decade — when the VA saw an influx of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans — spiked at higher than average rates around towns with military bases and large Veterans Affairs hospitals, the article says: in 2001, the Fayetteville VA prescribed hydrocodone to 1,130 patients; last year, that number soared to 47,586 patients — an increase of 4,100% in 11 years. Nationally, hydrocodone prescriptions rose by 56% from 2001 to 2011.

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Prescription drug OD deaths skyrocketing in women: CDC

helpOverdose deaths due to prescription painkillers have been on the rise among all segments of the population, but a new analysis of federal data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that such deaths have quintupled among women since 1999.

Although more men are still dying of prescription drug overdoses, women are catching up: in the last 14 years, the percentage increase in deaths has been greater for women, spiking by 400% as opposed to 265% for men, the CDC says.

According to the agency, 6,631 women died of opioid overdoses in 2010 — more than twice the number who die from cervical cancer — compared with 10,020 men; in addition, while younger women in their 20s and 30s tend to have the highest rates of opioid abuse, the overdose death rate was highest among women ages 45 to 54.

In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency room department visits for misuse of opioids among women, one every three minutes, the CDC says.

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