Nucynta is an opiate medication that is similar in effect to Vicodin and Percocet, according to Medical News Today. Johnson & Johnson has recently sought and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the drug available in an extended release format. What’s the significance? Like OxyContin, also available in an extended release tablet, it can mean a higher potential for abuse.
Nucynta is classified as a schedule II drug. Schedule II drugs are a designated as such when they have a high potential for abuse but still can be used for legitimate medical purposes. Other drugs in the same class include methadone, oxycodone, morphine, cocaine, and pentobarbital, among others. First approved in 2008, Nucynta is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain that is chronic in nature. Until now, it has only been available in an immediate release format.
Extended Release Tablets
Extended release opiate painkillers allow patients struggling with chronic pain to take one dose in the morning rather than multiple doses throughout the day. An initial amount of the pain reliever is released to provide immediate relief of pain but then another layer on the tablet causes a delay in the release of the next dose of pain reliever.
So what’s the problem? The problem is the high rate of abuse among pills that come in this format. OxyContin is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs due in part to the fact that it is available in this extended release tablets. Those who abuse the drug often do so by crushing the pills before taking them in order to get a higher dose of painkiller all at once. Because Nucynta is an opiate painkiller, the approval for issue in extended release form is highly controversial. Will it become the next preferred drug of abuse?
Prevention of Painkiller Abuse
Patients who are prescribed painkillers can develop an addiction to their medication when they take more than prescribed or crush the pills before snorting or swallowing them. Diversion of medications is another issue; those who are prescribed painkiller legally may sell or give their pills to others who then develop an addiction to the drug or exacerbate a pre-existing addiction.
One way that companies and regulatory agencies like the FDA are talking about limiting the abuse potential is to change the design. The hope is that there may be a different format that is resistant to crushing or breaking.
Another form of prevention of drug abuse is to increase the number of statewide databases and cross-country referencing of those databases so that doctors who prescribe addictive painkillers and pharmacists who fill the prescription can work together to make sure that no one is receiving duplicates or more than medically necessary.
One way parents can limit their teen’s access to prescription drugs is to make sure to keep a close eye on their own prescriptions. If you are prescribed a medication for the short term, make sure to dispose of the remaining pills rather than keeping them in the medicine cabinet for curious teens to find.
What do you think? Is another extended release format painkiller on the market going to increase the rate of prescription drug addiction? Knowing that teens abuse prescription drugs regularly, how do you feel about the new format for Nucynta?