Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging federal regulators to be extra cautious as they decide whether to approve new super-potent painkillers.
Schumer sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on Sunday, urging the agency to “proceed with great caution” as drugmakers seek approval for a pure hydrocodone product that’s reportedly 10 times as strong as Vicodin, the brand name for a compound of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. The warning follows the slaying of a federal agent in a botched drugstore robbery last weekend and comes as deaths from the abuse of prescription opioids now outnumber cocaine and heroin deaths in the United States.
“In the wake of a recent tragedy in Long Island, New York and countless other violent incidents nationally that are related to prescription drug abuse,” Schumer wrote in his letter, “I have obvious concerns about how this new drug could contribute to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse and its resultant crime.”
Lawmakers from both parties are seeking to curb prescription drug abuse by requiring extra training for prescribers and better monitoring of prescriptions.
In his letter, Schumer recommended that the FDA, if it approves the new drug, “undertake robust postmarket surveillance,” including monitoring of marketing and sales; require drugmakers to make the product as “tamper-proof” as possible; and look into requiring radio-frequency identification to help law enforcement track the drugs if needed.