Health professionals petition for limits on painkillers
  • Thu, 07/26/2012 - 3:30pm

A group of health care professionals want the Food and Drug Administration to change labeling directions on how painkillers should be prescribed in order to prevent abuse of the dangerous drugs.

The group consisting of 35 physicians sent a petition to the FDA Wednesday. The FDA does not usually act in response to requests like this one, but since the group is comprised of health professionals arguing the dangers of painkillers, especially when overprescribed, the FDA may take it under advisement, according to the New York Times.

The agency approved painkillers for “moderate to severe” pain, and drugs like these are either labeled as short-acting or long-acting. Short-acting painkillers are narcotics that are combined with an over-the-counter painkiller, such as Percocet or Vicodin, the Times reported. Long-acting painkillers use pure narcotic, and include drugs such as OxyContin and fentanyl. Narcotics affect mood and behavior and those who take them are liable to develop a dependence on or tolerance for them, according to the WebMD medical dictionary.

Petitioners requested that the FDA change the approval of painkillers for solely “severe” pain in patients other than cancer patients. Currently, they are approved to treat “moderate to severe” pain. The group also petitioned for a lower dosage level and a decreased time period in which the painkillers are used on patients not suffering from cancer.

According to The New York Times, narcotic painkillers are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. and cause of 15,000 overdose deaths per year.

Specific studies have not been conducted to determine long-term risks or benefits of these narcotic painkillers. However, they have been deemed to cause sleep apnea, decreased hormone production, and falls and fractures, particularly in the elderly population.

If the FDA accepted and approved the group’s petition, companies would have to market the products differently. Though there would be limitations in how the drugs are marketed, doctors would still have the capability to prescribe these narcotic painkillers “off label” as they please.



About the Contributor

Kaitlin Gill
I report on news regarding product safety concerns for individuals and families.

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