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Published on 10 February 2009

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FDA spotlights opioid-drug abuse

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The abuse of opioid drugs – those that simulate the effects of painkillers such as natural opium – is being targeted in the US.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered makers of such drugs to co-operate in government attempts to reduce the extent of the abuse.

The drugs, including morphine, oxycodone and methadone, are primarily used to control severe pain in people already prescribed narcotics, such as cancer patients.

But these powerful compounds are often used recreationally, which can lead to chronic addiction, social disfunction and thousands of deaths a year.

The FDA reports that while four million patients are prescribed such drugs in the US, over five million people are using them “inappropriately”.

It is to hold meetings with 16 drugmakers on March 3 to discuss risk-management plans, which might include higher-profile warning labels and cautionary letters to doctors.

Companies likely to attend include makers of Johnson & Johnson’s Duragesic patch, King Pharmaceuticals’ extended-releases Avinza pills and Purdue Pharma’s extended-release OxyContin.

Dr John Jenkins, FDA’s chief of new drugs said: “We’re focusing on these products because they generally contain very high doses of the drugs and need to be used very carefully.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

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