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F.D.A. Moves To Rein In Pain Killers

The F.D.A. moves to rein in America’s huge usage of powerful painkillers. We’ll look at where they’re drawing the line.

In this Feb. 19, 2013 file photo, OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. The F.D.A. announced in Oct. 2013 that it would formally recommend a change in the classification of hydrocodone pain medications. (AP)

In this Feb. 19, 2013 file photo, OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. The F.D.A. announced in Oct. 2013 that it would formally recommend a change in the classification of hydrocodone pain medications. (AP)

It’s a familiar scenario: after a surgery or wisdom teeth extraction, the doctor writes a prescription for pain medication. A pill or two would do the trick, but the vial has 60 pills. And sometimes, those pills stick around. Abuse of high strength pain medication has reached a breaking point, we’re told, and the FDA is stepping up.  Last week, the FDA announced plans to make high-strength pain pills harder to prescribe, and harder to abuse or misuse. Many addiction experts cheered the decision, but some doctors have concerns. for. Up next, On Point: a plan to rein in  powerful pain meds.

Guests

Barry Meier, health policy and business reporter for the New York Times. Author of “A World of Hurt: Fixing Pain Medicine’s Biggest Mistake” and “Pain Killer: A ‘Wonder’ Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death.” (@BarryMeier)

Dr. Josiah Rich, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Brown University School of Medicine. Director and co-founder of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at the Miriam Hospital Immunology Center.

Dr. Brian Bruel, assistant professor, Department of Pain Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

From The Reading List

New York Times: F.D.A. Shift on Painkillers Was Years in the Making — “The F.D.A.’s long resistance to added restrictions on the drugs underscores what critics say is its continuing struggle to address the complexities of the painkiller problem in its often conflicting roles — one as a regulator that approves drugs and the other as a drug safety watchdog. On Friday, public health advocates who had cheered the agency’s decision the day before were dismayed when the F.D.A. approved a new, high-potency painkiller despite an 11-2 vote by an expert panel of its own advisers not to do so. The panel concluded in December that the long-acting opioid, called Zohydro, could lead to the same type of abuse and addiction as OxyContin.” — “The drugs at issue contain a combination of hydrocodone and an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or aspirin and are sold either as generics or under brand names like Vicodin or Lortab. Doctors use the medications to treat pain from injuries, arthritis, dental extractions and other problems. The change would reduce the number of refills patients could get before going back to see their doctor. Patients would also be required to take a prescription to a pharmacy, rather than have a doctor call it in.”

Wall Street Journal: FDA Recommends New Limits on Pain Drugs — “The decision by the federal agency follows a recommendation given to it by an advisory committee earlier this year, which voted 19-10 to limit the amount of such medicines that can be prescribed without a new prescription. The move covers pills containing hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is more widely dispensed in the U.S. than even cholesterol and blood pressure medications. But since it is commonly sold as a generic drug, hydrocodone makes up just a fraction of the fast-growing $7.3 billion pain market.”

The Post Game: Earl Campbell Opens Up About His Addiction To Painkillers And His Campaign To Help Others — “I had no clue my condition was becoming an issue until one morning in November 2009. My two sons, Tyler and Christian, sat me down and told me they were worried for my life and would be admitting me to a rehabilitation facility. I’ve had a lot of joyful and painful moments along the way, but hearing those words from my children whom I’ve always tried to set an example for was by far the lowest point in my life.”

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