Expert: New painkiller 'will kill people as soon as it's released'

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Published February 28, 2014

| Newser

A new FDA-approved painkiller isn't set to hit pharmacy shelves until next month, but critics are already warning it could kill—with just two pills. Zohydro, which the FDA gave the green light in October against the advice of its advisory panel, will serve as a powerful pain pill for those who can't get relief from what's already out there.

It contains the same basic ingredient (hydrocodone) as Vicodin, but it has 5 to 10 times the power, Forbes notes, and without the added acetaminophen.

As an expert on the advisory board who voted "no" tells NBC News, that acetaminophen deters savvy addicts from loading up on Vicodin for fear of liver damage.

Like OxyContin, Zohydro is a "pure narcotic"; but unlike OxyContin, the Zohydro set to be released isn't tamper resistant, and can easily be crushed, then snorted or injected.

"In the midst of a severe drug addiction epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing the country needs is a new, dangerous, high-dose opioid," some 40 experts wrote to the FDA in a call for Zohydro's reevaluation.

"It's a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule. It will kill people as soon as it’s released," says one of those experts. But one doctor points out that "it all depends on how doctors monitor it. It could be lifesaving. But if used the wrong way, like any medication, it can cause trouble." On that front, Forbes reports that experts say someone unaccustomed to opioids could overdose with as little as two pills, and that a single pill could kill a child.

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