Prescriptions have climbed 300 percent in the past decade, and drugs containing the narcotic hydrocodone are the most commonly prescribed medications, according to a recent Consumer Reports story.
Consumer Reports also found 46 people per day, or almost 17,000 people per year, die from overdoses of prescription drugs. That number has increased more than 400 percent from 1999. For every death, more than 30 people are admitted to the emergency room because of opioid complications.
Despite the alarming numbers, the Food and Drug Administration approved another opiod last December, known as Zohydro ER. The drug is a long-acting version of hydrocodone.
“We think the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks,” said Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., who oversees regulation of drugs for the FDA. Throckmorton said the FDA has taken steps to make all opioids safer, including requiring stronger warnings on drug labels.
Since the approval of Zohydro ER, attorneys general from 28 states, including Florida have asked the FDA to reconsider. More than a dozen Republican and Democratic members of Congress have signed a bill that would ban Zohydro ER.
“All of this doesn’t mean that everyone should avoid opioids and acetaminophen altogether,” said Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., chief medical adviser for Consumer Reports. “But it does mean that the FDA should fulfill its role to protect consumers by taking strong steps to reduce the dangers, starting by reconsidering its approval of Zohydro ER and finally establishing consistent standards for acetaminophen.”
Lipman said if you and your doctor agree a painkiller is necessary, it should be closely regulated.
“Pain drugs can be as bad as the pain itself,” Lipman says. “So you need to know when they are really needed and how to use them safely.”