FDA approves powerful new pain pill, safety advocates concerned

FDA approves powerful new pain pill, safety advocates concerned

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Mac's pharmacy in Knoxville is one of many pharmacies who anticipate dispensing the medication to patients. Mac's pharmacy in Knoxville is one of many pharmacies who anticipate dispensing the medication to patients.

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There are concerns about the FDA approving  a powerful new pain killer. It's called Zohydro ER.

Groups fighting drug abuse say it's a pain pill they don't want to see hit the streets. The FDA's own set of advisors gave the pain pill a negative review last year.

Patient safety advocates also opposed the drug's release, but on Friday, to the shock of many groups including the Metropolitan Drug Commission in Knoxville, Zohydro was approved.

The drug is 5-10 times more powerful than the average pain pill. It is pure hydrocodone. Until now, hydrocodone has always been sold mixed with other drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) for example. So safety advocates worry drug addicts will take it, not realizing the potential for an overdose death.

"I'm extremely disappointed that the FDA would license a product like this right now considering everything going on with the prescription drug epidemic," said Karen Pershing, with the Metropolitan Drug Commission.

"It's going to be much more sought after by people addicted to hydrocodone," Pershing added, about Zohydro being hydrocodone in its purest and most dangerous form.

Hydrocodone is already one of the most abused drugs in the nation.

"We're just really concerned, especially in terms of drug overdose deaths," Pershing said.

Mac's pharmacy in Knoxville is one of many pharmacies who anticipate dispensing the medication to patients.

"Where I see it, having a niche is the stage 3/4 cancer patient," explained pharmacist Morgan Honeycutt.

However, even pharmacists have their concerns about the FDA approving this drug, despite opposition.

"Personally I don't see the need for this. Hydrocodone has never been available by itself. It's always been combined because of the abuse potential," Honeycutt said.

"To release something like this to the public right now is not a good idea," Pershing said.

The Metropolitan Drug Commission says there's money to be made by pharmaceutical companies with the release of a drug like this. In fact, when the FDA approved Zohydro, the stocks of their parent company, Zogenix, went up by 36%.

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