In March of 2016, the Food and Drug Administration voiced a challenge to pharmaceutical companies to create a non-addictive yet effective painkiller drug. This challenge came on the coattails of now more than thirteen years of epidemic level addiction problems, problems that seemed to have no end in sight.
FDA officials urged major pharmaceutical companies to start working on alternatives to current drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone which are very addictive, all in an effort of course to make them less addictive. The FDA also urged drug companies to begin designs for new drugs to be released at a later date that could be completely free from all addictive properties. The FDA also encouraged drug companies to immediately work to make their drugs “abuse-deterrent,” through meaning like making pills harder to crush and then snort, making pills uncomfortable to take in large quantities, etc.
The goal here is to get the pharmaceutical industry thinking about making drugs that people cannot or will not abuse. After dozens of lawsuits filed against them and hundreds of thousands dead in the last two decades because of overdoses on their drugs, one would think that the pharmaceutical organizations responsible for these addictive drugs would have already changed their manufacturing process, but it instead took a heavy-handed approach from the FDA to put such change into action.
The FDA is instituting a study and research policy in which the makers of “abuse-deterrent” drugs will study, survey, and research the real effects that these substances have on preventing people from getting addicted to them. The motive behind such research projects will be to see if making abuse deterrent drugs even accomplishes any kind of dip in the abuse of these drugs. The FDA has instituted policy wherein pharmaceutical giants must deliver abuse-deterrent drugs, monitor their ethical use or lack thereof, and work to innovate non-addictive painkillers in the very near future.
Another change the FDA made was to insist that drug companies make “boxed warnings” on the pill bottles of opioid pain reliever drugs in an effort to inform and educate patients about the risks involved in taking them. The FDA also worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to clarify the importance of doctors’ understanding just how risky these substances really were.
In the spring of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged doctors to take special caution in prescribing opioid pain reliever drugs. In fact, the CDC recommended that doctors avoid prescribing these drugs altogether whenever possible. The CDC encouraged that doctors change their prescribing habits to no longer include prescribing to patients suffering from joint and back pain, dental pain, and other chronic but not terrible or “mind-numbing” pains.
All of the changes, recommendations, and new policies mentioned above that occurred in the spring of 2016, unfortunately, did not have the desired effect. In fact, 2016 ended up being the worst year yet for deaths from opioid prescription pain relievers, with close to thirty-thousand Americans dying from these drugs alone.
Obviously, the above advice, recommendations, and policy changes did not “take” in the first year. This is why the FDA’ original request for an “addiction-free” pain reliever drug is so necessary and needed right now.
This is a problem that will not recede without major action taken on all our behalves. The pharmaceutical industry profits in the hundreds of billions every year because of our incessant need for these life-ending and very dangerous drugs. It seems like we just can’t get away from them, no matter the level of action that we take to do so.
Massive change in our country must occur for us to resolve this problem. We all have to change the way we view pain and the way we think about this problem. We all have to change how we address addiction and what we are trying to do about it. We need to focus on real solutions to our pain problems and our addiction problems, not just band-aid, quick-fix resolutions that never really get to the bottom of the problem. If we don’t we will continue to be an overmedicated country and we will continue to be a country that loses more lives to legal pill drugs than to illegal street drugs.