The state attorney general is joining other officials and advocates in calling for U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to overturn the federal government's approval of a powerful prescription opioid, Zohydro ER, until it has been made tamper-proof.
"It's simply irresponsible to manufacture Zohydro without abuse-deterrent formulas, and I am calling on the federal government to reverse this decision," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday in a statement.
Zohydro, a pure hydrocodone painkiller said to be up to 10 times stronger than Vicodin, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in October and went on the market at the beginning of this month.
Like other highly addictive opioid pills designed to release a drug over time, it can be crushed and snorted by addicts seeking a stronger, faster high. The FDA approved the drug despite the 11-2 recommendation of its advisory panel against it.
"We cannot ignore the powerful lessons learned from the massive and unparalleled increase in drug abuse resulting from 'crushable' OxyContin and other prescription opioids," Schneiderman said in a letter to Sebelius released publicly Monday. "It is incredible that Zohydro ER lacks these common-sense safeguards."
HHS said in a statement that Sebelius "appreciates hearing from elected officials" and that the agency "looks forward to responding to Attorney General Schneiderman's letter."
Zohydro's maker, Zogenix, said that it is offering "complimentary access to locking pill caps," which require a combination to open, and that it is developing two "abuse deterrent formulations" that should be available in October 2016.
Earlier this month, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) also sent a letter to Sebelius calling for her to rescind the FDA's approval of Zohydro.
Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, testified against approval before the FDA advisory panel and said he joined the attorney general "in asking that it be reversed."