Overdoses On Drug Cocktails Reach New Record High: FDA Issues New Warning Labels
As the scourge of opioid drug abuse continues to ravage the U.S., the fallout and casualties continue to mount. Opioids accounted for more than 47,000 overdose deaths in 2014, and now there are reports of people being hospitalized after taking counterfeit opioid prescription pills. Indeed, one telling statistic notes that more than six out of ten drug overdose deaths involve opioids.
But a new threat has emerged in the battle against the so-called “benevolent” medications–those drugs that are legal and make stockholders a lot of money, but which prove deadly nonetheless.
So alarming is this new trend that the Food and Drug Administration has seen fit to issue a new “black box warning” to be printed on nearly 400 products. This constitutes the strongest warning of its kind that the FDA can issue, in order to call doctors, patients, and other health care providers’ attention to the potential dangers that certain drug combinations may present.
According to the FDA, the combination of certain anti-anxiety meds like Xanax and painkillers has led to a spike in emergency room visits. Since 2004 the number of deaths attributed to overdoses from taking the recommended dosage of one drug in concert with another drug has tripled.
“It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf in a prepared statement.
Opioid painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine will receive the new warning labels, as will drugs in the benzodiazepines class, including Xanax, Valium, and lorazepam.
Also at issue was the use of sedatives in combination with either opioids or benzodiazepines or both. People who have mixed them can experience problems with breathing, comas and even death.
Doctors have been issued new directives pleading with them to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions they write, and indeed there has been a decline in prescriptions for the first time in 20 years. However the rate of fatal overdoses continues to climb.
The new FDA warning was rolled out as a part of the FDA’s new “Opioids Action Plan,” which it hopes will lead to a “reversing of the prescription opioid abuse epidemic, while still providing patients in pain access to effective and appropriate pain management.”
Interestingly, nowhere in the report was there mention of the new statistics that show that in states with legal access to medical marijuana, annual prescriptions written for opioid pain relievers and other drugs have dropped precipitously.
Guess we’ll have to wait a few years until Big Pharma can capitalize on marijuana-derived drugs before we start hearing from the FDA on its benefits.