Against the advice of many public health and addiction specialists, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a new opioid-based painkiller that is more powerful than many of those currently available on the market. The new pill, Zohydro, will be the first pure hydrocodone medication made avaiâ€‹lable for use in the United States.
Variations of hydrocodone currently on the market are combined with medications like acetaminophen to reduce their strength. This purity could make Zohydro up to 10 times stronger than other opioids. In addition, the medication also lacks the tamper-proof features that are necessary to deter abuse.
"That the FDA has approved another incredibly powerful painkiller without [tamper-proof features] is both disconcerting and dangerous," Jeffrey Reynolds, the executive director of the Long Island, New York, Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, told the Long Island Newsday. "While this drug might be a godsend for people with acute pain, it's a potential nightmare for those struggling with or at risk for addiction."
Reynolds also testified before the FDA's advisory panel of experts when the drug was still in the approval process. The group actually voted 11-2 against the approval of Zohydro, but the FDA is not required to follow the recommendation of the panel. The government agency has defended its decision by saying that the drug is necessary for the treatment of individuals in severe pain for whom traditional medications have been ineffective.
The FDA also doesn't require tamper-proof formulations of controlled substances, and critics of the approval say that the agency should have waited until that option was available.