A second drug company has announced plans to market a powerful new form of hydrocodone. Teva Pharmaceuticals, based in Israel, is predicting that sales of its TD Hydrocone could increase its revenue by up to $500 million within one or two years. Teva is joining San Diego based Zogenix who are planning to launch the drug under the brand name Zohydro.
The new super painkiller will contain more than four times the amount of hydrocodone found in a single Vicodin tablet. Many experts fear that competition between pharmaceutical makers to get the powerful new drug to the market will add to the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. There is also concern about lawmakers that this new drug could create a new class of drug abusers and fuel the prescription drug black market.
According to Teva, TD Hydrocodone contains a 12-hour time-released formula and up to 45 milligrams of pure hydrocodone. In comparison, Vicodin contains 10 milligrams of hydrocodone and is not time-released. While other hydrocodone-based drugs have also contained a non-addictive painkiller like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, the new drug contains pure hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone is categorized as an opiate, a class of drugs that includes oxycodone and morphine. The chemical makeup of these drugs resembles opium. Like opium, they are a powerful antidote to pain but carry the risk of abuse, addiction and overdose. The physical dependence associated with opiate drugs can case withdrawal symptoms in users who try to stop taking them.
The Associated Press released a statement from Senator Charles Schumer of New York calling on the FDA to slowdown the “stampede” to bring powerful new painkillers to the market. Policymakers and law enforcement agencies are currently fighting a growing prescription drug war that frequently turns violent. In New York State, two recent pharmacy robberies connected to prescription drugs left six people dead. The FDA did not respond to Schumer’s challenge.
Teva has not yet applied for FDA approval but is said to be in the final stages of testing for the drug. Teva spokesman William Marth recently told investors that the drug should be on the market in the near future. Teva is one of four companies currently working to release a pure hydrocodone drug. One of the companies, San Diego-based Zogenix, is expected to apply to the FDA early this year for its drug Zohydro. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin (currently the most abused prescription drug), is also working on a version of the new drug.
Pain management experts predict that doctors will increase prescriptions for opiate drugs over the next decade as the U.S. population ages. The painkiller drug market is estimated to be worth billions of dollars each year, giving drug companies plenty of incentive to develop more powerful drugs that could be associated with higher rates of abuse.