For those that live with chronic pain, or are in post-traumatic mode from an injury or surgery, opiate derivatives such as hydrocodone and oxycodone (typically mixed with acetaminophen) can help to suppress the pain and allow for more normal function.
Unfortunately, this class of medications is also highly addictive, with oxycodone becoming the mostly widely abused in the category. In fact, FDA statistics show that more than 33 million Americans age 12 and older misused extended-release and long-acting opioids during 2007-up from 29 million just five years earlier.
That abuse is what is leading experts to question the wisdom of a stronger, purer version of hydrocodone, one that is estimated to be ten times stronger than Vicodin (acetaminphen and hydrocodone blend). Currently, four different pharmaceutical manufacturers have a hydrocodone derivative in the works, with the closest to market being Zohydro from Zogenix. Zogenix has thus far completed three rounds of testing, and has announced it had a final meeting with FDA officials to talk about the upcoming drug application. Plans are to file the application in the first quarter of 2012 and have the drug to market one year later. Zohydro will be available in a time-release version, which is typically the optimum strategy to keep pain at bay. But it also makes the pill subject to crushing, which destroys the time-release function and delivers an immediate high. While doctors welcome alternatives to help their patients, abuse experts have a legitimate concern. Opiates not only have the capacity to block pain, but also provide a sense of well being, with the downside that they are highly addictive, whether used through prescription or illegally.
Earlier this year, Pfizer Inc and Acura Pharmaceuticals Inc received approval of a pain drug designed to combat widespread abuse of opioid-based painkillers. Their tablet, called Oxecta, still contains the popular oxycodone, but has safeguards should the pill be crushed or mixed with water. Dissolving the pill in water causes it to become a gel, which cannot be drawn into a needle to shoot up. If the tablet is crushed and snorted, it makes for a severely irritated and painful nasal passage thanks to new technology. The pill should be available in the first half of 2012.