According to federal figures, treatments for the abuse of prescription painkillers has risen 430 percent over the last 10 years. Now four companies are studying a new pain reliever that is said to be 10 times more powerful than Vicodin, and addiction experts are concerned about the potential of further abuse.
A pure version of the addictive ingredient hydrocodone is included in Zohydro, which is a timed-release drug intended for use in treating moderate to severe pain.
According to CBS News, hydrocodone is listed among the group of drugs including morphine, oxycodone, codeine, heroin, and methadone. These drugs are all chemically similar to opium.
April Rovero, the president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse said, according to an Associated Press report on Fox News, "I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin." The Drug Enforcement Agency said oxycodone has become the most-abused medicine in the United States, and hydrocodone is right behind. Drug abusers found they could beat the timed-release by crushing the pills.
Zogenix, a company from San Diego, wants to begin marketing Zohydro in early 2013. Their chief executive, Roger Hawley, claims Zohydro will be safer than Vicodin because Vicodin contains acetaminophen, which can hurt the liver through high doses, according to Mail Online. Also, the drug companies are saying patients will be watched closely because they have to return to their doctors for every refill they may need.
The other three companies doing the research, Perdue Pharma, Cephalon, and Egalet will be developing their own versions of the product.
The New York Daily News reported that Drug Enforcement Administration data found that the number of emergency room visits linked to hydrocodone jumped from 19,221 in 2000 all the way to 86,258 in 2009.