Despite Court, States Act On Painkiller Amid Rx Drug Abuse Epidemic


Despite a court order, Massachusetts and other states plan to restrict use of a new painkiller drug, setting up a showdown with the federal government over who gets to decide the best way to protect public health, reports Stateline. In the case of Zohydro, the argument pits the needs of millions of chronic pain sufferers against the urgent desire of states to combat a catastrophic epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Although there haven't been specific cases of Zohydro abuse in Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick fears the powerful new drug will make the painkiller abuse crisis even worse.

This month, U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel ruled that Massachusetts could not ban a drug deemed safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration. In thwarting Patrick's move—perhaps the first time a state has ever tried to ban a drug approved by the FDA—Zobel emphasized that federal law trumps state law. Patrick responded by slapping other restrictions on Zohydro, beyond those mandated by the federal government. Whether those steps will invite another court challenge remains to be seen. Next door in Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin has taken similar steps. Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled Ohio legislature is considering its own ban on Zohydro.

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