Journey Healing Centers has raised its concerns over the potential approval of a new "super painkiller" called Zohydro. If Zohydro is approved, the organization claims it would represent "the first pure hydrocodone formulation on the market—a painkiller like Vicodin, Lortab and Norco, but without Tylenol or Ibuprofen mixed in."
“The number of people seeking treatment for prescription painkiller dependency at our treatment centers is growing every year and this epidemic does not appear to discriminate based on age, gender or socioeconomic status," explains Dr. Ravi Chandiramani, Journey Healing Centers Medical Director. "We see everyone from high school kids that got mixed up with the wrong crowd to corporate executives who went from seeking pain relief from a flared tennis injury to taking enough pills in one day to kill most people."
Chandiramani adds that while the drug company behind Zohydro claims it will be safer because less people will develop liver problems (and prescribers cannot authorize refills like other hydrocodone-containing drugs), many experts recognize that Zohydro could be "the next Oxycontin fiasco in the making."
In the past decade, emergency room visits related to hydrocodone abuse have increased almost 250% from 19,221 in 2000 to 86,258 in 2009, according to data compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Oxycodone is now the most-abused medicine in the United States, with hydrocodone a close second, according to the DEA's annual count of drug seizures sent to police drug labs for analysis.
On top of addiction concerns, the DEA says armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686. The number of pills stolen went from 706,000 to 1.3 million. Thieves are overwhelmingly taking Oxycodone painkillers like OxyContin or Roxicodone, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin and Norco. Both narcotics are highly addictive.
Four companies have begun patient testing on a time-released formulation containing pure hydrocodone, and one plans to apply in early 2013 to begin marketing Zohydro. This new super painkiller will be marketed to those seeking to manage moderate to severe pain, and advocates claim that this new formulation will give providers another tool in the fight against legitimate chronic pain.