Analysis: DEA Move Could Limit How Pharma Markets Heavy Painkillers

Analysis: DEA Move Could Limit How Pharma Markets Heavy Painkillers

March 27th, 2013 // 4:32 pm @

March 27, 2013

A top DEA official sent a letter this week to FDA, encouraging the agency to crack down harder on how pharmaceutical companies are marketing narcotic painkillers to doctors. The letter stated that these types of drugs are involved in many more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Some of the proposed changes could include changes to painkiller labels and how the drugs are prescribed.

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Joseph Rannazzisi is the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control. He urged FDA to put more stringent limits on OxyContin and Vicodin to provide better safeguards for the American public.

In sending the letter, DEA is really trying to turn up heat on FDA. DEA appears to be very concerned about the public health risks that stem from abusing opioid drug products.

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The petition FDA is mulling over focuses on how pharma sells painkillers and how doctors give them out. The petition asks FDA to change labels to reduce the daily doses of painkillers. It also asks that FDA limit use to 90 days or less for people who are not suffering from cancer pain. Pharma also would not be able to market these drugs for moderate pain problems. This could have a major impact on how drug companies would be able to market painkillers for anything other than chronic, noncancer pain.

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It seems that drug fatalities are now more numerous than car crash deaths. Prescription overdoses are largely to blame. Government officials have reacted to the growing death toll by targeting illegal sources of prescription drugs, such as young people stealing drugs from their parents, and also pharmacy robberies.

An analysis in 2012 of 3730 fatalities related to prescription drugs in Southern CA noted that more than 50% involved a drug that was prescribed by a doctor.

DEA also is trying to enact more restrictions on opioids by asking FDA to change how these drugs are categorized, especially those that have hydrocodone.

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