More people now die from accidental overdoses of OxyContin and other prescription opioids drugs than from heroin and cocaine combined. To reverse that trend, the Food and Drug Administration announced a program to educate doctors and patients about the safe use of those drugs.
While drugs such as oxycodone (OxyContin and generic), methadone (Dolophine and generic), and fentanyl (Duragesic) are very effective at relieving pain they can also cause a number of side effects and, when taken in very high doses, stop breathing.
The FDA's program requires drugs companies that manufacture extended-release and long-acting opioid drugs to develop education programs for doctors and consumers. The program will include information to help doctors choose appropriate patients for the medications and safely monitor those who start the drugs. The program will also help doctors recognize the signs of opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction. The consumer materials will include the signs of potential overdose, as well as tips on safe storage and disposal, so other people don't improperly get their hands on the drugs. The first materials under this new program are expected to be available in March, 2013.
The program will apply to these drugs:
- Avinza (morphine)
- Butrans (transdermal buprenorphine)
- Dolophine (methadone)
- Duragesic (transdermal fentanyl)
- Embeda (morphine and naltrexone)
- Exalgo (hydromorphone)
- Kadian (morphine)
- MS Contin (morphine)
- Opana ER (oxymorphone)
- Oramorph (all morphines)
- OxyContin (oxycodone)
Bottom line: If you are prescribed any opioid, never take extra doses or combine it with alcohol or any other sedative or anti-anxiety medication, unless directed by your physician. Put opioid medication in a lockbox to keep them away from others. If you have extra opioid pills, the FDA recommends flushing them down the toilet.
For more on these drugs, see our Best Buy Drugs report on opiods and our previous article about the safe use of these painkillers. And read more about the FDA's advice on proper drug disposal.
FDA introduces new safety measures for extended-release and long-acting opioid medications [FDA]