San Diego Company Producing Controversial Drug

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A San Diego-based company is releasing a controversial new prescription drug called Zohydro. The pill is designed to treat patients with chronic and severe pain. But NBC 7's Liberty Zabala explains why addiction counselors worry this drug could be especially dangerous. (Published Monday, Mar 3, 2014)

    A San Diego-based company is producing a new painkiller that some lawmakers are asking the FDA to revoke.

    Zohydro- Extended Release the same ingredient found in Vicodin called hydrocodone, except this pill comes with a much higher concentration.

    Unlike Vicodin, the drug does not come mixed with Acetaminophen, which is the same ingredient as Tylenol.

    "It's still Vicodin. It's just you got to take one instead of five to get the same effect," says Jeff Cox, an addiction counselor at Lasting Recovery.

    This ensures users don't get liver toxicity-- a common side effect of taking too much acetaminophen.

    "There's a market to that,” Cox says. “There's a benefit to that. One of the problems is it has an abuse potential, and it can be crushed up and injected and producing the effect of taking more than one Vicodin."

    But it’s that potential for abuse that has critics calling for the FDA to revoke its approval of the drug.

    "We have to ask why we have so many of these pain medications to begin with. In the United States, we use the most opiate pain medication on the planet," Cox explains.

    The San Diego-based company Zogenix produces the drug and declined an interview with NBC 7, but said in a statement:

    The safety of Zohydro ER is based on clinical studies of more than 1,100 people living with chronic pain (and) was found to be generally well tolerated (with) adverse reactions in ≥ 2% of patients.

    But Cox says the new drug provides even more access for addicts.

    "It's easier for the insurance industry and the medical industry to prescribe these potentially addictive medications which not everybody becomes addicts, but a lot of people do," he said.

    A New York Senator has called on the U.S. Health and Human Services to overrule the FDA and pull it from shelves.

    Zogenix says it is working to develop an abuse-deterrent version of the drug.

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