Thursday, February 27, 2014

Advocates Urge FDA to Revoke Approval of Painkiller Zohydro By Join Together Staff | February 26, 2014 | More than 40 addiction treatment, health care and consumer groups are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse its decision to approve the prescription painkiller Zohydro ER (extended release), CNN reports. The drug is a pure form of the painkiller hydrocodone. The FDA approved Zohydro ER in October for patients with pain that requires daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment that cannot be treated with other drugs. Drugs such as Vicodin contain a combination of hydrocodone and other painkillers such as acetaminophen. Zohydro ER is set to become available in March, the article notes. In December 2012, a panel of experts assembled by the FDA voted against recommending approval of Zohydro ER. The panel cited concerns over the potential for addiction. Zohydro is designed to be released over time, and can be crushed and snorted by people seeking a strong, quick high. The opioid drug OxyContin has been reformulated to make it harder to crush or dissolve, but Zohydro does not include similar tamper-resistant features. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the coalition of health groups, wrote, “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. Too many people have already become addicted to similar opioid medications, and too many lives have been lost.” The health groups include the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Public Citizen Health Research Group, Phoenix House, the Hazelden Foundation, and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. In December, 28 attorneys general wrote to Commissioner Hamburg, saying they believe the approval of Zohydro ER “has the potential to exacerbate our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic because this drug will be the first hydrocodone-only opioid narcotic that is reportedly five to ten times more potent than traditional hydrocodone products, and it has no abuse-deterrent properties.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

DEA Joins Investigation Into Source of Deadly Heroin That Killed 22 In Western PA By Join Together Staff | January 29, 2014 The Drug Enforcement Administration has joined an investigation into the source of a batch of heroin that killed 22 people in western Pennsylvania, The Wall Street Journal reports. The heroin involved in some of the deaths contained the synthetic opiate fentanyl, often used during surgery. “We do have a good idea where it’s coming from,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said of the drug mix. “We’re trying to find the source and get them off the street before there are any more deaths.” Dr. Karl Williams, medical examiner for Allegheny County, said 15 overdose deaths in the county appeared to be linked to heroin and fentanyl. In an average week, there are five overdose deaths in the county. More nonfatal overdoses were also reported. Officials found bags of heroin mixed with fentanyl at the scene of overdose deaths stamped with the names “Theraflu” and “Bud Ice,” the article notes. While most heroin is a tan color, these bags of powder were pure white, Williams said. “Clearly, someone has mixed up a big dose of it,” he said. Some local law enforcement and health officials are concerned that warning drug users about the dangerous heroin mix will encourage them to seek it out for a more potent high. “A lot will chase it, and demand goes up,” Neil Capretto, Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center told the newspaper. “They will think those who died were just careless.”