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New Painkiller Draws Concern

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A new painkiller called zohydro hits the market next month. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug last October. Critics say the drug's potency will add to our nation's growing epidemic of abuse.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --  It's the newest painkiller to hit pharmacies nationwide.

"Zohydro-- would classify that as a chronic pain medication," said Joshua Wolf, a clinical pharmacist at Mercy Hospital.

Wold says unlike over-the-counter and other prescription painkillers, access to Zohydro will require a written prescription from a physician taken to a pharmacist.

"It's the highest regulations of prescribed medications you can receive," he said.

When zohydro hits pharmacies, it will serve as one of the most powerful pain killers compared to what's already out there. It's much stronger than over the counter drugs like Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, or Tylenol. It even beats out Vicodin.

"Doses of zohydro go anywhere from between 10 to 50 mg of hydrocodone," said Wolf. "Maximum for a Vicodin is only 10 milligrams."

Critics worry about the potential for overdose and abuse.

A group of health activists called "The FED Up! Coalition" recently sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration citing "a single capsule could be fatal if swallowed by a child" and "someone unaccustomed to taking opioids could suffer a fatal overdose from just two capsules."

"The potential for overdose, especially for small children or even adults who are, what's called naive, to medications, that's potentially something that could be harmful to the patient."

But it's not only that.

"Taking it with alcohol can increase the blood levels of zohydro very quickly, causing all the side effects of like respiratory failure," he said.

The drug also is easy to manipulate.

"It's formulated to be a 12 hour release," he said. "So you have potential for abuse with crushing the tablet and getting a rush out of it."

Wolf says pharmacists will adhere to high enforcement regulations by the Drug Enforcement Administration, but potential danger still exists.

"It'll be very highly controlled, hard to get," he said. "But once received, that's the question of what's going to happen."

The F.D.A. approved zohydro, despite opposition from its appointed scientific advisory panel. Since then, many health advocate groups, medical professionals, and consumer organizations have come together to oppose the drug and request that it be kept off the market.

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