Deadly Painkiller, Zohydro, Prompts Ban In Massachusetts

Massachusetts bans the controversial new pain killer, Zohydro.

Zohydro ER, a potent new painkiller, has prompted a ban in Massachusetts. Zohydro has experts, law enforcement, politicians and the public across the state terrified.

Massachusetts’ decision to ban the controversial new pain killer, according to the Washington Times, is because the hydrocodone based drug is just too dangerous sell. Gov. Deval Patrick said of the ban, “Unless it is available in an abuse-deterrent form, or better, until the secretary of [Health and Human Services], or the Congress has acted on the requests to overturn the FDA, Zohydro will not be available in Massachusetts.”

The Zohydro ER ban was initiated because the pill has more hydrocodone than Vicodin and similar painkillers, yet isn’t tamper proof. The capsules can be crushed making them more easily abused and cause more addiction. Proponents of the ban in Massachusetts say Zohydro will add to the epidemic of drug abuse which has incited about 16,000 overdoses annually. Zohydro is the first single-ingredient hydrocodone drug approved by the FDA.

The ban on Zohydro isn’t the only emergency measure lawmakers in the US are taking. In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin, has tightened prescribing rules for Zohydro. Without actually banning the powerful, new painkiller, Vermont doctors will only be permitted to prescribe Zohydro if there are no alternatives and after a rigorous risk-assessment is completed for each patient. In addition, in Vermont, patients will be required to sign an agreement to submit to regular medical evaluations including urine screenings, WCAX News reported Thursday.

Meanwhile, Zogenix, the drug’s creator, fights back against the ban and all of the claims about Zohydro ER. In a press release, Zogenix said, “We are extremely disappointed that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator, as she did in a Congressional hearing today, would repeat misinformation about Zohydro(TM) ER that has been demonstrated to be false.” The company believes ban of Zohydro will add to patient suffering. It called Massachusetts’ ban “unprecedented” and unfair. Despite feeling confident that Zohydro isn’t any more dangerous than other painkillers on the market, Zogenix established an External Safe Use Board of experts just for Zohydro and it will give patients of Zohydro free locking pill bottle caps that it says will prevent others in the home from easy access to the drug.

The commonwealth isn’t buying it.

Dr. Allen Vaida, of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, told ABC News, “Is it nice that they’re putting together an external review panel of independent people? That’s fine,” he explained, “But is the group going to have any authority or power whatsoever?” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, believes that because most of the panel members have and will receive funds from Zogenix, the group can hardly call themselves “external.” Vermont and Massachusetts lawmakers aren’t the only politicians taking action. In a letter to Janet Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, several senators wrote of Zohydro, “As the elected representatives of a state in the grips of a growing opiate drug epidemic that was, we believe, touched off by the FDA’s 1996 approval of OxyContin, we are very wary of the impact a new, powerful opiate will have on the Commonwealth’s already high drug addiction rate.”

The senators suggested a move to require any new hydrocodone based painkiller to be in a tamper resistant form that would cause a crumbly gel rather than a powder when crushed. OxyContin’s formula was altered to do this to prevent overdoses by snorting the drug by abusers. More states are sure to follow.

Supporters of the Zohydro ban believe the drug will create “accidental-addicts” and that excessive deaths will result from the lack of oversight in Zohydro’s FDA approval.