CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A super powerful pain killer called Zohydro will hit the market in March. Due to its strength, some are worried people could easily abuse it, overdose and die.
It's Dr. Krisha Baddigam's job to treat and manage chronic pain at the Interventional Spine Associates of the Carolinas.
Next month, his patients will have access to new powerful painkiller called Zohydro ER.
The base medicine in Zohydro, hydrocodone, has been on the market for years.
"If you've ever been to dentist and had root canal or been to surgeon for arthroscopic knee surgery, this is a drug that’s commonly prescribed,” Baddigam said.
Many patients are prescribed hydrocodone in the form of Vicodin, which is a mix of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.
Vicodin comes in doses of 5 to 10 milligrams taken a few times day and starts to work soon after it’s taken.
On the other hand, Zohydro only contains hydrocodone and comes in 10 to 50 miligram doses. It works over an extended time and is taken every 12 hours.
Zohydro can also be crushed, creating an easy way for it to be abused through snorting or injections
It is fueling uproar from addiction specialists, doctors, and even North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper who co-signed a letter last year urging the Food and Drug Administration to rethink the drug.
Cooper said, "We know about the epidemic of prescription drug abuse and the hundreds of overdose deaths we have here in North Carolina."
Cooper is asking health care providers to use the statewide prescription drug monitoring system to make sure patients don't try to "doctor shop" to abuse the drug.
Baddigam uses that database and said drugs like Zohydro can help patients, especially those with chronic illnesses like cancer. He said doctors should always prescribe any drug with caution.
"When you pick a patient and think about using this drug [make sure] that you have done your due diligence to show the benefit for that particular patient really outweighs the risks of the medication," the doctor said.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said he's also concerned the release of Zohydro could lead to more pharmacy robberies.