While Zohydro might be good for those in pain, the potential for abuse and addiction is off the charts.
Addiction experts are already on the alert about a new pain medication that’s currently in the final stages of development. The new drug contains a pure version of hydrocone, a highly addictive narcotic painkiller, and is reported to be 10 times stronger than Vicodin. There are fears that a surge of abuse will follow release of the drug.
Four companies are now testing the drug on patients. Zogenix, a San Diego company, plans to begin selling the drug in early 2013 under the name Zohydro. This will mark the first time that patients will have access to pure hydrocodone. There are dozens of existing medications that contain hydrocone (like Vicodin), but all combine it with another drug such as Acetaminophen.
Zohydro will be extremely habit forming
Hydrocodone is a member of a category of drugs known as opiates. These drugs, which are similar to opium, include other pharmaceutical drugs like oxycodone (marketed as OxyContin), codeine, and methadone as well as illegal drugs like heroin and morphine. The DEA reports that hydrocodone is the second most abused prescription drug in the nation, with oxycodone in first place as the most abused drug.
Critics of Zohydro are especially concerned that the drug has a time-released formula. OxyContin was initially released with a similar formula and quickly became the drug of choice for substance abusers who crush the pills for a more intense effect. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, recently reformulated the drug to make it crush-resistant. According to CBS News, this has caused many former OxyContin addicts to switch over to oxycodone and other drugs that are not time released. Purdue Pharma is also developing its own version of the new hydrocodone drug and has applied for a patent for extended release technology for the new drug.
Opiate-based painkillers have caused a national epidemic of abuse that has resulted in hundreds of pharmacy robberies and violent crimes as well as drug overdoses and deaths. The CDC reports that prescription painkillers caused more than 15,000 deaths in 2008 as well as more than 86,000 emergency room visits. Treatment for prescription painkiller abuse has risen by more than 430% over the past decade.
According to a 2008 study by the International Narcotics Control Board, the U.S. currently accounts for 99% of the world’s hydrocodone consumption. April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, has expressed concern that this new drug could represent the next OxyContin. “We just don’t need this on the market,” said Rovero.