Consumer Reports: Concerns Over Pain Pills

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Prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin can make days bearable if you're suffering, but they can be as addictive as heroin and just as deadly.

Prescriptions have soared 300 percent in the past decade. In fact, Vicodin and its generic, hydrocodone, are now the most commonly prescribed drugs in America.

46 people a day-almost 17,000 people a year-die from overdoses of opioids. And more than 500,000 people a year are admitted to the ER because of opioid use, many unconscious or barely breathing.

With numbers like that, Consumer Reports was surprised by a recent Food and Drug Administration decision. The FDA went against the overwhelming recommendation of its own advisory committee and approved another version of hydrocodone--called Zohydro ER. Doctors have been prescribing it since March.

Consumer Reports and attorneys general from 28 states are calling for the FDA to reconsider its approval of Zohydro ER. Consumer Reports says that it offers no clear advantage over other drugs that are currently on the market, and its potency makes it yet another target for misuse and abuse.

However, according to the FDA, Zohydro ER is beneficial for people with chronic pain who need treatment around the clock. They say one of the benefits of the drug is that it does not contain acetaminophen, so patients do not have to worry about damaging their liver.

The FDA adds that they closely researched the drug before approving it, and believe that the benefits ultimately outweigh the risks.

Consumer Reports says there are of course cases where prescribing opioids is necessary. If you and your doctor decide your condition warrants using these potent painkillers, Consumer Reports cautions-take them exactly as directed and be certain not to combine them with sleeping pills or alcohol.