We’ve all heard about the Opioid Crisis and maybe you’ve even had your doctor reduce or halt your prescription of Vicodin, Percocet, or Tylenol with Codeine (to name a few) in recent years. Ironically, as prescriptions are decreasing concerning this highly addictive medication, the FDA has just approved Dsuvia, an opioid that is five to 10 times stronger than fentanyl and 500 to 1000 times more powerful than morphine. Doesn’t this seem counterproductive to solving this drug epidemic that plagues the U.S.?
Dsuvia is made by AcelRx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and is intended for “the management of acute pain severe enough to require an opioid analgesic and for which alternative treatments are inadequate,” explains Dr. Pamela Palmer, anesthesiologist and chief medical officer at AcelRx. This new drug comes in pill form and is intended to dissolve under the tongue. Additionally, since it is such a potent medication, it’s only supposed to be distributed and monitored in medical settings to prevent drug abuse. Other regulations include that a patient may only be on Dsuvia for 72 hours and the prescription will be required to have the same black-box warnings as all opioids concerning the risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose (but who reads a label when you’re admitted in a hospital?).
Opioid abuse has been rampant in the U.S. and offering a new opioid that is significantly stronger may only add fuel to the fire. “It doesn’t seem reasonable to place another potent opioid on the market at this time, especially when we’re currently still writing 200 million prescriptions for opioids a year,” stated Dr. Raeford Brown, chair of the FDA advisory committee on analgesics and anesthetic drug products. “The need to put a drug like this on the market is not demonstrated. The ability to manage that drug once it gets past the FDA is not demonstrated…. We know from looking at other potent opioids that have been put on the market in the last four years that once these drugs get past the FDA, there’s very little, if any, control over them, no matter what the sponsor says prior to the time they come on the market.”More than 115 people die each day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose and opioid misuse costs our country approximately $78.5 billion a year. It seems obvious that offering a stronger drug will only create larger problems, especially when the FDA lacks the funding and manpower to perform post-market monitoring.