Indiana, five other states want painkiller approval overturned

Zohydro (Photo: YouTube/NBR)
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Indiana's Attorney General is trying to stop a powerful painkiller from hitting the market.

Federal regulators recently approved the prescription drug Zohydro ER, but Greg Zoeller thinks it's too dangerous for some Hoosiers and is asking for its approval to be overturned. He says at a time when prescription drug abuse is skyrocketing in Indiana, the introduction of Zohydro could be a dangerous decision.

Leland Campbell, 24, is in recovery for prescription drug abuse. It started with legitimate pain after an injury on the field while playing high school football.

"I got a cleat stuck into my back. It was diagnosed as sciatica," Campbell said. "I would say it was pretty bad. It hurt. I'd say on a scale of 1-10 it was probably like a 7 or 8."

But pills for the pain soon turned into addiction.

"I went from Darvocet to hydrocodone. From hydrocodone, I went to Oxycontin. I started lying and manipulating that I needed more and more," Campbell explained.

Prescription drug abuse is rampant in Indiana right now, at epidemic levels. Statistics show it's blamed for the deaths of 718 Hoosiers in 2011, a nearly 10 percent increase from 2010.

That's why Campbell, as a recovering addict, is concerned about a new powerful pain pill approved by the FDA and about to hit the market. Zohydro is pure hydrocodone and is 5-10 times more powerful than Vicodin.

"How much stronger do they need? That's what I want to know," Campbell said.

Zohydro has state leaders worried, too.

"It is ten times more powerful than anything on the market. The ability to abuse, just makes you wonder what the FDA was thinking," said Zoeller.

Zoeller has joined Attorneys General from five other states in asking the feds to overturn Zohydro's approval. He's written a letter requesting the change to Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Zoeller says the FDA's own advisory committee voted 11-2 against Zohydro's release, but the prescription drug was approved anyway.

The makers of Zohydro say concerns about the drug are the result of "misinformation," but Zoeller says this particular drug is too easy to convert and abuse, unlike many other opiates.

"It is in a form that has no protection. It can be crushed and snorted. It can be put into a liquid form and injected. It's really very accessible to abuse," Zoeller said.

Already hundreds of Hoosiers die from prescription drugs each year. Zoeller says Indiana also leads the nation in pharmacy robberies. Adding Zohydro in the mix, he says, would be dangerous.

"When word gets out that this is available in the pharmacies, I'm nervous that we might go back and have more," Zoeller said.

The state vows to fight this drug and continue to help those fighting to recover.

Leland Campbell certainly is - and he's winning.

"I now have happiness and peace and serenity," Campbell said. "Fairbanks saved my life. The 12-step meetings that I go to saved my life."

The drug was approved by the FDA last October although its advisory committee voted against the drug being released. 

Zoeller, along with a task force he established to combat prescription drug abuse in Indiana, launched a website to promote awareness of the issue. 

Learn more here.