In 2011, 52 million people used prescription narcotic pain pills non-medically in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s an increase of 20-fold in the last 20 years. Today, we are losing 45 people every day to this epidemic—more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
So when the FDA approved the drug Zohydro last year, a new high-dose opioid analgesic known as the heroin pill, state and federal lawmakers took notice. The new med contains 10 times the opioid hydrocodone found in Vicodin and is the first approved drug that is not cut with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, making it that much easier to snort or shoot.
Opponents claim the FDA is ignoring the statistics recently released by several government agencies highlighting the problem of pill mills and that the practice of prescribing high-power painkillers for back pain and arthritis should be drastically reduced by using those drugs for cancer and end-of-life care only.
However, manufacturer Zogenix Inc. insists the new drug is justified and says it has ‘taken extraordinary steps to support appropriate use through a voluntary, comprehensive set of educational tools and safeguards.’ The company also says it offers ‘access to free locking pill bottle caps and discounted safe-storage units to prevent others from obtaining easy access to meds that were not prescribed for them.
That’s not enough for those who want the drug banned. Many believe the FDA should withdraw its approval of the drug, in an effort to keep the country from spiraling further into a prescription painkiller epidemic.