Pain Pill Makers Get Guidance on Thwarting Drug Addicts

Companies making opioid painkillers were given a better idea by the U.S. government today of how to prove their pills are resistant to abuse by recreational users.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed a guideline outlining studies drugmakers should conduct to demonstrate abuse deterrence. The guidance also makes clear to companies what claims abuse-resistant painkillers can make on the ability to block the effect of an opioid when manipulated, such as when the pills are crushed and snorted for a more intense effect.

The FDA isn’t requiring abuse-resistant painkillers, rather it wants to determine what strategies work best, Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director at the agency’s office that oversees drug reviews, said on a conference call with reporters. Regulators plan to be flexible as companies adopt the technology.

“This draft guidance is an important part of a larger effort by FDA aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse and misuse,” Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement, calling opioid addiction a major public health challenge.

FDA advisers decided Dec. 7 against recommending Zogenix Inc.’s single-ingredient hydrocodone painkiller Zohydro for approval after they determined it needed more protections from abuse. Zogenix is working on an abuse-deterrent formulation that hasn’t been submitted to the FDA for approval.

Label Claims

Endo Health Solutions Inc. already makes an extended-release oxymorphone called Opana that is tamper resistant. The Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania-based company took its earlier version of Opana without the abuse deterrent off the market.

Endo can’t claim the product is abuse-resistant on the label. The FDA hasn’t approved any labeling that claims an opioid can reduce abuse, Throckmorton said.

Purdue Pharma, based in Stamford, Connecticut, is working on an abuse-resistant formulation of pure hydrocodone, the company said last month in a statement.

The FDA is asking for public comment on the guideline for 60 days and plans to hold a public meeting, which hasn’t yet been scheduled.