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The FDA just approved an opioid painkiller 10 times more powerful than fentanyl

The FDA just approved an opioid painkiller 10 times more powerful than fentanyl
[Photo: JOSHUA COLEMAN/Unsplash]

In the midst of an opioid crisis that has cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives (in 2016, more than 11 million Americans misused painkillers, and more than 13,000 people overdosed), the FDA has approved a new opioid drug that is 1,000 times more potent than morphine and 10 times stronger than fentanyl. What could possibly go wrong?

The drug, Dsuvia, is a quick-dissolve tablet designed as an alternative to the rapid-fire infusion of pain meds available via IV at a hospital. It’s intended for short-term use only, and should not be used for more than 72 hours. And for good reason, as the side effects of the drug are a doozy: extreme tiredness, breathing problems, coma, and, of course, death.

The FDA is taking some precautions in the hopes that the drug will not be abused. In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that “very tight restrictions” will be placed on the drug. It will not be available at your local pharmacy and is designed only for use in a “certified medically-supervised healthcare settings.”

But those restrictions are not sufficient, claims Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), who blasted the FDA for failing to prove that the drug has enough “unique benefits over other available FDA-approved opioid products” to justify the risk of abuse. In a statement he noted that “an opioid that is 1,000 times more powerful than morphine is 1,000 times more likely to be abused, and 1,000 times more likely to kill.”

According to the FDA’s statement, the drug was designed for military use, and while no one wants soldiers to suffer, some may argue that in the war against opioid-related overdoses, there are plenty of battlefields right here at home—with more than 115 people dying after overdosing on opioids every single day in the United States.

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