The AP reports that a federal judge blocked Massachusetts from banning the powerful new painkiller Zohydro.
U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel on Tuesday issued the preliminary injunction after the maker of the drug, Zogenix, said in a lawsuit that the ban ordered by Gov. Deval Patrick was unconstitutional.
Zobel said in issuing the injunction that Massachusetts appears to have overstepped its authority in banning the drug, which had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Patrick ordered the ban after declaring a public health emergency in light of widespread prescription drug abuse in the state.
The judge said federal law preempted the state’s order.
By Judy Foreman
U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel today disappointed anyone who expected her to quickly strike down Gov. Deval Patrick’s ban on the sale of the new pain reliever Zohydro. She declined to rule on the drugmaker’s request to quickly but temporarily lift the ban, and is continuing to consider whether to lift the ban permanently.
Judge Zobel faces a difficult decision but not because Zohydro, as many media reports have said, is more potent than anything else on the market. It’s not, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
First, the legalities. It should be up to federal health officials, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, not governors, to make decisions about the safety (or lack thereof) of drugs. For better or worse, the FDA, after a long 2013 review, and against the vote of its own advisory committee, did approve Zohydro in October of last year.
Legally, and logically, it also made little sense in the first place – except politically — for a governor to focus on one particular drug when the whole class of drugs to which it belongs — opioids, also known as narcotics – is controversial precisely because that whole class of drugs has such a complex mix of risks and benefits.
In truth, Zohydro is probably not the wonder drug that its manufacturer, Zogenix, claims, nor is it the menace that critics assert. The furor over Zohydro is simply the latest example of how difficult it is to balance the legitimate needs of people in chronic pain who need long-acting opioids and the also-legitimate need to protect vulnerable people from getting their hands on drugs they might abuse.
The unique feature of extended-release Zohydro is that it contains the opioid hydrocodone, and only hydrocodone. Continue reading