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Beyond Zohydro ER, Alkermes Has A New Painkiller In The Pipeline

Though they stand to rake in the profits from the controversial Zohydro, the Irish pharmaceutical company is developing a less dangerous opioid.

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Only time will tell... Photo via Shutterstock

By John Lavitt

12/12/13

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With recent approval by the FDA of Zohydro ER for the American distributor Zogenix, Irish pharmaceutical giant Alkermes, the drug’s European authorized manufacturer, finds itself on the forefront of prescription painkiller production.

Though Alkermes did not develop Zohydro ER in-house – they acquired the manufacturing and distribution rights when they bought Elan Pharmaceuticals in 2011 – the company plans on shifting into the prescription painkiller development business with the introduction of ALKS 7106, which is slated for the first stage of clinical trials in 2014.

According to the Alkermes website, “ALKS 7106 is a potent, oral opioid analgesic designed for the treatment of pain with intrinsically low potential for abuse and overdose death, two liabilities associated with other opioid medicines.” The pain relieving drug allegedly will have “more potent analgesic properties than morphine and was well tolerated at doses far in excess of those required for analgesic action,” the website said. Alkermes went on to state that additional preclinical data for the proposed drug “demonstrated a ceiling effect on neurotransmitter release over a broad concentration range, suggesting low potential for abuse and overdose death.”

Given the company’s highlighting of the two major liabilities associated with opioid medicines – potential abuse and overdose death – in regard to ALKS 7106, questions arise as to why the same precautions were not taken with Zohydro ER, since Alkermes stands to profit substantially from the sale of that dangerous and highly controversial painkiller.

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