San Diego-Based Company Zogenix Responds to Zohydro Criticism

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    A San Diego-based company has set up a board of experts to guard against abuse of its powerful new painkiller that public health authorities fear could worsen heroin and prescription drug abuse.

    Zogenix, which makes Zohydro, said the drug is no more potent, per milligram, than other hydrocodone medications.

    The Food and Drug Administration approved the painkiller last fall, and it hit the market last month.

    It’s an extended-release drug that contains up to five times the amount of narcotic hydrocodone previously available in pills.

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    Some public health authorities say abusers can too easily crush the pills and then snort or inject the drug.

    On Thursday, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin announced an emergency order that would make it harder for doctors to prescribe Zohydro.

    Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ordered an outright ban on prescribing and dispensing Zohydro until it is marketed in a form that is difficult to abuse.

    Late last year, 28 state attorneys general signed a letter asking the FDA to revoke the drug's approval or require the manufacturer to reformulate the drug to make it harder to crush.

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    Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., also introduced legislation that would compel the FDA to withdraw the drug.

    Zogenix has set up a board of experts to guard against abuse and told the Associated Press that its sales representatives are not being paid based on volume, but rather on their efforts to ensure prescribers, pharmacists and patients understand the medication's risks and benefits.