Experts Worry New Painkiller Will Cause Deaths and Contribute to Opioid Addiction Epidemic

A new opioid drug, Zohydro, has received FDA approval despite outcry from numerous lawmakers and health experts.

The FDA’s approval of this drug, which is five to ten times more powerful than Vicodin, met with huge opposition from many medical professionals and policy makers, who fear that it will contribute to the opioid-abuse epidemic rampant in this country.

Zohydro is a hydrocodone drug, and does not contain the anti-abuse measures of OxyContin, which has ingredients in place to prevent abusers from grinding the pills into powder, and then snorting or injecting them. In the words of Andrew Kolodny, the president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, “it’s a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule. It will kill people as soon as it’s released.”

This past March, Kolinsky and approximately 40 other experts, collectively calling themselves Fed Up, wrote a letter to the FDA urging them to rethink its approval of Zohydro. The group consists of doctors, addiction specialists, pharmaceutical industry experts and advocates who are worried about the toll that this drug will take. In fact, the FDA’s own advisory board rejected the approval of this drug 11 to 2.

They have good reason to worry. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 17,000 people in the US died from opioid overdoses in 2010.

This is more deaths than those from cocaine and heroin overdoses combined. According to Dr. Oz, ten percent – and very possibly more – of Americans are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

In their letter, addressed to FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, Fed Up wrote, “in the midst of a severe drug addiction epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing the country needs is a new, dangerous high-dose opioid.”

The group warns that some people could overdose on Zohydro by ingesting as little as two pills. Children could overdose from ingesting just one. Nethertheless, the FDA went ahead and approved Zohydro.

To combat this epidemic, some states are taking action, and seeing results from directing sufferers of chronic pain towards alternative therapies. One of these states is Maine, whose MaineCare program now requires chronic pain patients to participate in alternative pain therapies, as well as limiting their dosage of painkillers.

As part of this initiative, Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Maine requires these patients to attend weekly sessions in a cognitive behavioral therapy pain treatment program. Because of programs like this, MaineCare reports a 30 percent decrease in the number of patients taking prescription opiates.

Massachusetts is another state that is taking action against Zohydro. The state’s Governor, Deval Patrick, tried to get the drug banned entirely, but this action was overturned by a federal judge.

However, the state has put a procedure into place that will require patients to undergo a risk assessment and a pain management treatment plan before they receive the drug. The prescribed dosage will also be closely monitored.

Many other states are setting restrictions for the prescribing of Zohydro. In fact, nearly 30 states had asked the FDA not to approve this dangerous drug.

The United States opioid epidemic is no joke, and costs many people their lives. If you are a sufferer of chronic pain, there are many natural options available that have helped numerous people to manage and even find relief from their pain.

Talking to a naturopathic practitioner about your options before running to the pain management clinic for an opioid prescription is a much wiser, safer course of action.

You may well find the solution to your pain that works for you in nature, without the tragic side effects caused by dangerous and addictive chemicals. And when you choose a more holistic approach, you may discover how to stop the pain in the first place, keeping your money out of the hands of big pharma.

-The Alternative Daily


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