Massachusetts Governor Keeps Pushing For Zohydro Restrictions

By McCarton Ackerman 04/25/14

Despite getting smacked down by a district judge, Gov. Deval Patrick is trying a different way to curb potential abuse of the powerful opioid.

Photo: Wiki Commons

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick may have lost the battle for a statewide ban on Zohydro, but he’s still working to impose harsh restrictions on the controversial opioid painkiller.

Patrick imposed a ban on Zohydro last month after declaring a public health emergency, but U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel said he was “out of line” for for his actions against a drug that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. After Zobel's ruling that the state could not substitute their own judgment for that of the FDA, Patrick’s administration announced on Tuesday that doctors would be required to complete a risk assessment and pain management treatment agreement before prescribing drugs like Zohydro.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett also issued an emergency order that will require physicians to use the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing Zohydro. The Board of Registration voted to approve both of these orders on Tuesday.

“We are in the midst of a public health emergency around opioid abuse and we need to do everything in our power to prevent it from getting worse,” said Patrick in a statement. “The broad actions we are taking to address the opioid epidemic will help save lives and give families struggling with addiction new hope.”

The current Zohydro pill has sparked concerns of addiction because it’s five times stronger than any opioid medication currently on the market and can be easily crushed, meaning the user could snort or inject the contents of the drug. An abuse-deterrent form of Zohydro is in development, but it won’t be on the market for another one to three years. Attorney Steven Hollman, who represents Zogenix, the makers of Zohydro, shifted concerns of addiction away from the company by claiming the FDA rejected requiring the company to use abuse-deterrent technology.

An advisory committee brought together by the FDA also voted against releasing the drug by 11-2, but the FDA disregarded their recommendations and approved the drug last October. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of the advocacy group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, said Zohydro “will kill people as soon as it’s released. It’s a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.