Judge Says MA Governor "Out Of Line" For Banning Zohydro

Judge Says MA Governor "Out Of Line" For Banning Zohydro

By McCarton Ackerman 04/10/14

The governor took unilateral action in banning the powerful opioid painkiller in response to what has been deemed a severe public health emergency.

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Gov. Deval Patrick. Photo via

A federal judge recently slammed Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for his statewide ban of the opioid drug Zohydro, despite it being cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Patrick declared a public health emergency last month in addressing the issue of opioid addiction in Massachusetts and banned the drug as part of that effort on Mar. 27. The order immediately shut down the dispensing and prescribing of Zohydro in the state until “adequate measures are in place to safeguard against the potential for diversion, overdose and misuse.”

U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel said the ban will remain in effect until another court hearing on Monday, but said she was skeptical of his authority to ban a drug that has been deemed safe and called his actions “out of line.” She also expressed displeasure that Patrick’s administration did not notify Zogenix, the maker of Zohydro, before banning the drug. The drug company has already sued Patrick and Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, asking for an injunction to overturn the ban.

Assistant Attorney General Jo Ann Shotwell Kaplan, who represents Patrick and Bartlett, declared that the governor acted within his rights in creating the ban. “There was and is a severe public health emergency that caused the governor to react as he did there,” said Shotwell Kaplan. “We have unprecedented numbers of people dying from heroin overdoses and other opiate overdoses…To add to this marketplace at this time a drug that’s especially, unusually, more than any other drug capable of this kind of abuse and fatality is a public health issue.”

Attorney Steven Hollman, who represents Zogenix, said Patrick’s concerns of Zohydro abuse are not their responsibility because the FDA rejected requiring the company to use abuse-deterrent technology. The current pill can be crushed by users, meaning that the contents of the drug can be snorted. An abuse-deterrent form of Zohydro is currently being created, but won’t hit the market for another two to three years.