Newest pain drug should be avoided

Mar 20, 2014

There have been plenty of lives ruined by opioid addiction, not only nationwide, but right here in Haywood County. Statistics show that one in four overdose deaths locally are from prescription pill abuse. We've seen the tragic stories of teens who died or overdosed to the point they now suffer severe brain damage.

The last thing we need is a stronger, new narcotic widely available on the streets to exacerbate our nationwide opiate problem. But that's exactly what the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed in the newest pain killer called Zohydro ER.

The potential for abuse and overdose is extremely high with this narcotic because it is the first to offer pure hydrocodone — the most abused substance on the market. The biggest flaw with the drug is that it isn't tamper proof.

That makes it easier for users to simply crush and snort or inject the drug for an almost immediate and very strong high that could cause overdose death with the first use.

We understand that narcotics are necessary and helpful to many patients who suffer from severe, chronic pain, and those people should not be left to suffer more because so many others decide to abuse these drugs.

While the FDA has a responsibility to provide effective medications to treat those who need it most, the agency should also take into consideration the repercussions of its actions because it won't take long for this drug to make its way into the hands of users on the streets and the kids in our schools.

The FDA should have followed its advisory committee's overwhelming 11 to 2 vote against the drug and urged the company making Zohydro to find a better solution.

The maker of OxyContin recently completed testing on its own version of a drug similar to Zohydro, one that is tamper resistant, which is a better option than having no controls on the drug at all.

If Zohydro remains on the market and is not outsold by other drugs that are tamper proof, we hope that the strictest of prescription controls be placed on the drug and that doctors are very selective when it comes to prescribing it to patients.

Local oncologist Dr. Bart Paschal said even with the extreme pain situations he's seen in his patients, he finds there are plenty of other medication options. He sees no situation where he would need to prescribe this drug.

Finally, we need to require physicians prescribing narcotic drugs to use the statewide substance reporting system, which tracks drug prescriptions and can help stem "doctor shopping" where users will visit multiple physicians to get medications which can have a high market value on the street.

Prescription drug abuse is at an epidemic level and it will take a multi-level approach to control it. When comes to Zohydro ER, a good first step would be for local physicians to think long and hard before prescribing it.

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