Pilloried for their role in the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse, drugmakers are pushing their remedy: a new generation of harder-to-manipulate opioids that have racked up billions in sales, though there’s little proof they reduce rates of overdoses or deaths, the Associated Press reports. More than prescriptions are at stake. Critics worry the drugmakers’ nationwide lobbying campaign is distracting from more productive solutions and delaying crucial efforts to steer physicians away from prescription opioids, which are addictive pain medications involved in the deaths of more than 165,000 Americans since 2000.
“If we’ve learned one lesson from the last 20 years on opioids it’s that these products have very, very high inherent risks,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. “My concern is that they’ll contribute to a perception that there is a safe opioid, and there’s no such thing as a fully safe opioid.” The new drugs, known as abuse-deterrent formulations, or ADFs, are harder to crush or dissolve, which the drugmakers tout as making them difficult to snort or inject. They still are vulnerable to manipulation and potentially addictive when simply swallowed. National data from an industry-sponsored tracking system also show drug abusers quickly drop the reformulated drugs in favor of older painkillers or heroin.