Prescription painkillers are big business in the US, with pharmaceutical companies racing to provide the next big thing to bring in huge profits from an overmedicated American public. Now the Associated Press reports that another drug company has confirmed it has plans to market a new form of hydrocodone. This announcement has experts concerned that this new version of the powerful and addictive painkiller will only worsen an already dangerous national prescription drug problem.
The latest contender is Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals, which says its product, TD Hydrocodone, could be worth as much as $500 million annually in sales. While not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug is in the final stages of testing.
Teva isn’t alone in its pursuit of the next popular painkiller. Four companies have been quietly working to develop their own pure forms of hydrocodone, the AP reports. (For those not in the know, hydrocodone is the main ingredient in Vicodin, Lortab and other currently available painkillers.)
While the others have remained quiet about their products in progress, execs at the North American division of Teva offered a preview of TD Hydrocodone during an investors conference in San Francisco recently, boasting that the drug could be on the market soon.
Teva did not divulge details of the drug, but the AP cites documents filed with the National Institutes of Health that show the company has been testing 12-hour, extended-release pills containing up to 45 milligrams of pure hydrocodone. That’s in stark contrast to meds like Vicodin, which are not extended-release and contain no more than 10 milligrams of hydrocodone, mixed acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine fall into a category of painkillers known as opiates because they are chemically similar to opium. They are extremely powerful and can create a physical dependence. Users who try to stop can suffer intense withdrawal symptoms, such as muddled thinking, stomach cramps, heart palpitations and nausea.
While many experts in pain management insist opiates are needed for legitimate pain control, especially among the growing elderly population in the US, analysts see a market worth billions.
Of note to those in the field of addiction treatment, the TD in Teva’s TD Hydrocodone is said to stand for “tamper deterrent.” This is in response to the known practice of addicts crushing extended-release opiate pills to get an increased high. As a result, many drug companies are working to develop tamper-resistant technologies to combat abuse.
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