Drug maker Zogenix Inc., won another battle in its war to get its controversial painkiller Zohydro on the market. This week, a Massachusetts federal judge blocked plans by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to ban prescriptions and sales of the newly approved narcotic in the state in an attempt to curb a growing trend of prescription drug abuse.
Zogenix filed a lawsuit alleging the move was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel ruled that the ban conflicted with federal laws, which take precedence against state laws when the two are in conflict. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zohydro in October. The medication was shipped nationwide beginning in March.
Zohydro’s approval was met with much controversy. Medical professionals, anti-drug-abuse groups and even a group of attorneys general petitioned the FDA to rethink its decision on the powerful painkiller. However, the FDA has stood firm on its action, arguing that people in chronic pain need more treatment options.
Zohydro is the only pure hydrocodone on the market. Hydrocodone is in a class of painkillers known as opioids. Others in this class include Vicodin, Fentynal and OxyContin. The drugs alleviate pain and give users a feeling of euphoria, which make them a sought-after recreational drug. Opioids are by far the most abused prescription medication in the country.
Hydrocodone is available in combination with other less-potent medications, such as acetaminophen. Brand names that contain hydrocodone include Vicodin and Lortab; however, Zohydro contains five to 10 times as much hydrocodone as those drugs.
The FDA recently issued a warning to consumers and doctors that unintended acetaminophen overdoses happen easily because the drug can be found in many prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol. Acetaminophen toxicity can cause liver failure, which can be fatal.