New, powerful painkiller raises concerns nationwide


by Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 10:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 27 at 9:02 AM

PHOENIX -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has joined dozens of other attorneys general and health groups across the country in urging the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its approval of a painkiller more powerful than any others on the market.

Zohydro ER, which pharmacists say is a super strong version of hydrocodone, will be available in capsule form in March.

"What they've done in this product is to really beef it up to be five to 10 times stronger than anything we ever had on the market before," Valley pharmacist Richard Bates told 3TV.

Zogenix, the maker of the Zohydro ER, defended the painkiller in a statement, arguing that it fills a void.

"As the first and only extended-release hydrocodone without acetaminophen, we expect Zohydro ER to fill a critical need for people suffering from chronic pain, who are currently experiencing pain relief with around-the-clock immediate-release hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination products but are at risk for liver toxicity," said Bradley Galer, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Zogenix. "Acetaminophen overdose is a leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States with almost two-thirds of those cases related to the use of these products."

But pharmacists have other concerns about the new drug.
"It's frightening the way they've put it together," Bates said.

He explained that it would be easy to remove the powder from the capsule and inject it directly into a vein.

A Drug Free AZ representative warned parents about the risks of narcotics in general.

"It could just suppress the respiratory system to the point where they stop breathing and they just simply never wake up, and it could happen the first time," Drug Free AZ Program Manager Theresa Londono said.