New, powerful drug creating concern from health officials

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A tiny pill is causing big concern in our area and across the nation.  In just a few days, this new and powerful painkiller will be available. It's called Zohydro and is stronger than any others out in the market now.

Many health care, consumer, and addiction groups are opposed to the drug. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has joined dozens of other health groups across the country urging the FDA to reconsider its approval of the painkiller.

Many were shocked the FDA approved Zohydro despite the strong objection of an FDA advisory committee, which voted 11 to 2 against time.

Zohydro is a super strong version of hydrocodone. It would be given to patients in doses between 10 and 50 milligrams a day. Ten times the typical dose of hydrocodone now. Supporters of the drug call it essential for patients who suffer from cancer, back problems or arthritis.

Local health officials at the Arizona Poison and Drug Center say they are concerned about the new drug.  They take many calls dealing with drug overdoses.

They wonder if a stronger painkiller like this is really needed at time when the leading cause of accidental death in Arizona is drug overdose from medications.

Dr. Keith Boesen, Director of Arizona Poison and Drug Center says, "There is enough of this drug present in one capsule to definitely be fatal to a young child or adult who is not used to taking it."

Health officials are also concerned with the capsule form of the pill. They say the potential for abuse of the painkiller is high.  It would be easy to remove the powder from the capsule and inject directly into a vein.

"From what we know about drugs like this, as soon as they are available on the market they are diverted and end up in places they shouldn't be. I would anticipate as soon as this drug is sold within a week there's people who have access to it that it wasn't prescribed to," says Dr. Boesen.

The new drug will be available in capsule form starting in March.  The Arizona Poison and Drug center urge anybody with questions to contact them.  Click here for more information.

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