Drug companies are developing a painkiller ten times stronger than Vicodin which addiction experts fear could spark a wave of abuse. Four companies have begun patient testing on the pills which are the first to contain the addictive ingredient hydrocodone in a pure form. If approved, it would mark the first time patients could legally buy pure hydrocodone as existing products combine the drug with nonaddictive painkillers such as acetaminophen.
The pharmaceutical firms claim the new drug will give doctors another tool to help patients manage pain. The companies also say patients will be more closely supervised. However addiction experts fear abusers will crush the pills into a fine powder and snort it to get high. Such practice is common with the painkiller oxycodone, currently the most-abused medicine in the U.S.
April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse told Fox news: ‘I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin. ‘We just don’t need this on the market.’
According to the DEA, there were 19,221 emergency room visits as a result of hydrocodone abuse in 2000. The figure was 86,258 in 2009. Between 2003 and 2007 in the state of Florida alone, hydrocodone caused 910 deaths and contributed to 1,803 others.
Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing told CBS: ‘You’ve got a person on your product for life, and a doctor’s got a patient who’s never going to miss an appointment, because if they did and they didn’t get their prescription, they would feel very sick. Abuse: Addicts crush pills such as oxycodone into a fine powder which they snort to get high. ‘It’s a terrific business model, and that’s what these companies want to get in on.’
The San Diego company Zogenix plans hopes to begin marketing its product, Zohyadro, in early 2013. Rival companies Perdue Pharma, Cephalon, and Egalet are developing their own versions. Zogenix chief executive Roger Hawley claims Zohydro will be a safer painkiller than Vicodin as Vicodin contains acetaminophen which can be dangerous to the liver.