Pain Sufferers--New Powerful Painkillers Planned for the Market
It is no secret that pharmaceutical companies are rushing into the $10 billion-a-year market for powerful opiates, perpetuating the demand for higher doses from chronic sufferers. A San Diego based drug company, Zegenix, is set to release its powerful narcotic, Zohydro, which will allow patients to legally buy pure hydrocodone. Patients who suffer from chronic pain or who have surgery are often prescribed hydrocodone buffered with acetaminophen to ease their misery, Vicodin, is one such drug.
The new drug is awaiting final approval from the FDA; in the meantime approximately 4.7 million Americans ,over 2% of U.S. population, will be holding their breaths in eager anticipation.
This is the sad reality facing a large number of Americans who are dependent on prescription drugs. A dependence on drugs is, however, distinct from an addiction. Chronic pain sufferers usually develop tolerance during long-term treatments. The effects of decreased tolerance are presented in the form of heightened sensitivity to pain, and the need for higher doses for maximum relief. At this stage, pain sufferers are no longer aware that their symptoms have subsided, continuing to take higher doses to feel normal, thus dependent on the drug.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director, Nora Volkow, “7% of patients who are prescribed narcotics or opioid analgesics to treat chronic pain will become addicted.” An addiction to a drug means taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed.
This raises concerns for addiction experts who are expecting wide-scale abuse of the powerful drug, Zohydro, once it hits the market. “I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin; we just don’t need this on the market,” said April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. Hydrocodone is second to Oxycodone (OxyContin) as the most abused medicine in the United States.
In their defense, pharmaceutical firms assert that they have only the best interest of their clients in mind as they continue to search for better painkillers to treat the aging U.S. population. In reference to the question of abuse, companies say patients will be closely monitored, requiring a visit to their doctors for each refill of the drug.
As the FDA prepares to review the application to release Hydrocodone in 2012, it is also time for Americans to rethink the role of medications in their lives, and looking toward solemn resolutions to a healthier lifestyle, than from medication.