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New painkiller: Zohydro will 'kill people when released,' drug approval fears

Zohydro has been approved by the FDA
Zohydro has been approved by the FDA
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A new painkiller by the name of Zohydro that was recently approved is leading to major fears from health care and addiction officials alike due to its potency and potential addictiveness. Said by one expert to “kill people when released,” the painkiller is a hydrocodone-based drug that was recently allowed by the FDA to treat people with severe, chronic pain. CNN News reports this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, that a coalition has already been formed to once again ban Zohydro, as many believe that this latest opioid analgesic will result in a major loss of lives.

Although the pills may be small, a new painkiller with great power called Zohydro is leading to vast controversy this week. An impressive coalition of over 40 association members and counting — including consumer organizations, addiction treatment groups, and health care programs — are pleading with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cancel their recent approval of Zohdyro, a potent prescription drug.

The painkiller, which is hydrocodone-based, is the most recent addition to many other painkillers that are known in the medical community as opiod analgesics. Just late last year in 2013, the FDA formally approved the medication to treat patients suffering from chronic pain, and it will become available to the public this March 2014.

What many officials are fearing is that people will literally die due to an overuse and overdose of this potent drug, furthering an already frightening painkiller epidemic here in the U.S. nation.

"In the midst of a severe drug epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing the country needs is a new, dangerous, high-dose opioid," the joint coalition wrote in a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. "Too many people have already become addicted to similar opioid medications, and too many lives have been lost."

While this letter was relatively tame, an addiction expert who later joined the anti new painkiller alliance said that the potency and simplicity of this drug Zohydro will be the downfall for its users, and that it should never have been approved by the FDA in the first place.

"It's a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of the advocacy group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. "It will kill people as soon as it's released."

Both state attorneys and members of Congress have also sent personal letters to the FDA requesting that the leading health administration not approve Zohydro — or even now to revoke its allowance before the public can get their hands on the addictive drug.

Adds the press release on the new painkiller, Zohydro could even very well become the next OxyContin, and high dosages will be one of its most dangerous points.

"This could be the next OxyContin," says a petition on, urging the FDA to review their controversial decision.

Perhaps all of those behind the anti-painkiller movement will make a difference in revoking its approval; if not, it will be arriving for patient use this March.

"You're talking about a drug that's somewhere in the neighborhood of five times more potent than what we're dealing with now," said Dr. Stephen Anderson, a Washington emergency room physician who is not part of the most recent petition to the FDA about the drug. "I'm five times more concerned, solely based on potency."

However, the maker of Zohydro and the FDA believe that there are far more benefits to the drug than negatives or public fears, and that it will not "kill people when released."

"We do not expect the introduction of Zohydro ER (extended release) to increase the overall use of opioids," said Dr. Brad Galer, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Zogenix, in an e-mail. "In fact, prescription data from the last five years shows that total use of ER opioids is constant and independent of new entrants to the market."

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