Prescription Drugs BLOG

A “super painkiller,” being tested by Zogenix and at least three other companies is a new drug containing pure hydrocodone that is up to 10 times stronger than Vicodin. The new painkiller is called Zohydro (hydrocodone). The drug is an oral, single-entity (without acetaminophen) extended-release opioid analgesic for around-the-clock management of moderate to severe chronic pain.

If approved, this “super painkiller” could be the first hydrocodone product to offer the benefit of less frequent dosing and the ability to treat chronic pain patients without the risk of liver injury associated with the use of acetaminophen in high dosages or over long periods of time.

But New York Senator Charles Schumer is warning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against approving new “super painkillers.” Four of these new drugs, which are currently being tested by pharmaceutical companies, contain a more powerful version of hydrocodone, one of the country’s most abused painkillers.

If “Zohydro” and other pure versions of hydrocodone are approved, it would be the first time that patients could legally buy pure hydrocodone at the corner pharmacy. However, experts fear that the release of the “super painkillers” may lead to a dramatic spike in drug abuse cases and other drug-related crimes in the future. Moreover, law enforcement officials and drug experts worry it will open a new front in the war against prescription drug abuse.

The FDA classifies hydrocodone as a Schedule II narcotic. It is considered one of the most-abused drugs in the United States, second only to oxycodone. “Hydrocodone is an addictive drug that can lead to serious illness, injury, or death if not used properly. For example, overdose can result in respiratory depression and cardiac arrest. In addition, side effects can include impaired motor skills or judgments, making it unsafe to operate machinery, drive, or engage in other potentially hazardous activities while taking the drug," reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While patients can refill current versions of hydrocodone up to five times, if the new hydrocodone medication is approved, patients will have to visit their doctor every time they need more.