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Action on Opioids, which are Becoming Killer Drugs

March 30, 2016
Plain English Version

Opioid 1

Every year drug overdoses kill more people in the United States than auto accidents. The government is trying to reduce the use of painkiller opioids.

There are two kinds of opioids. The first are “immediate-release.” Users take them every four to six hours. About 90 percent of the opioids taken are immediate-release.

The government is seeking to tell doctors how dangerous the immediate-release drugs are. The changes include new warning labels about the risks of abuse and death.

Patients take opioids called “extended-release” drugs once or twice a day. A few years ago, the government toughened labeling requirements for extended-release opioids.

Until now, only 34 opioids included warning labels about abuse and death. The new labels will apply to 87 brand-name drugs.

The government now says that patients should take these drugs only for severe pain. Or only when no other drug will work. The new labels will not tell doctors how much or how little to prescribe. Some critics say this is a problem. The government said it does not regulate how doctors practice.

Officials said the new guidelines will be a big help to doctors and patients.

Another effort to deal with opioids is in the works. The government is trying to encourage drug makers to create new versions of the drugs. They call pill versions of the drugs “abuse-deterrent.” They are hard to crush. They are hard to dissolve. Injecting or snorting these drugs will be difficult. The government wants the drugs to be generic. They will be cheaper.

A congressman said the government was doing the right thing. He said opioid drugs “are dangerous and addictive. They can lead to dependency.”

Source: The New York Times March 22, 2016

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