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Medical Edge: Concerns over strong pain killers now available

Updated: Tuesday, April 1 2014, 04:58 PM EDT
CINCINNATI (Liz Bonis) -- There are new concerns over a pain killer that's so powerful it has the potential to be  life-threatening if not carefully used under a Doctors care.
   
Experts at the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center say it's expected to be available in most area pharmacies by Tuesday.  It is a painkiller that is as much as ten times stronger than Vicodin and because of that has serious potential for abuse.
 
So many health care providers and lawmakers expressed concern about it.  Within the last week the company that makes the drug has set up a separate "Drug Safety Board" to  monitor those who take it and supply it.  Some states such as Massachusetts have banned it.
 
The drug is called Zohydro ER.  It was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration last fall but was scheduled to be in pharmacies across the country beginning this week.

Jerry Wiesenhahn, a Pharmacist, said, "Zohydro is a preparation that contains a long acting form of hydrocodone.  Hydrocodone is an opiate that's been around for a long time, it has been available under the names of Vicodin, and Norco and other brand names, and it's always been paired in the past with Acetomenophen, another name for Tylenol."

Jerry Wiesenhahn is a pharmacist who works in drug and poison information. He says up until now, in combination, the drug has always been in what's called a short acting form.

"The difference with this product is that this is just the Hydrocodone, just the opiate product, and it's in a long acting form so it has higher strengths available than there have been in the past in many cases," Wiesenhahn said.

He points out that there is a proper place for this in pain  management, it needs to be used under a doctors care.  But any time a newer drug, especially one this strong is introduced to the market, there is potential for abuse.

"They've seen people abuse them by crushing them up, and so that destroys the extended release formulation, and so they get that entire dose all at one time, so the dose they are meant to get over an entire 24 hours or so, they get all at once, and that's when they could become very very dangerous," he said.

That danger is that if you do take too much of it the drug could slow down the breathing, slow down the heart rate, drop your blood pressure, and put you into a coma.  Once that happens urgent medical attention is critical for survival.

The drug will be marketed under the name Zogenix.  Since it's estimated more than 15,000 people already overdose and die from opioid drug abuse a year there's concern that the number will climb.  Those who support it's use say those who need this type of pain management should not be denied the drug,


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