New England Governors urge HHS to reject Zohydro ER; Support Canadian action

New England Governors urge HHS to reject Zohydro ER; Support Canadian action

Providence R.I. – Five New England Governors, including Rhode Island Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, this week called on the federal Health and Human Services Department "to prevent easily abused and highly addictive painkillers, such as Zohydro ER, from entering the market." In addition the group also wrote Canadian health officials to support their efforts to require abuse-deterrent measures for pain medications that too often lead to addiction.

In a letter to HHS Sec. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Govs. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts outlined shared measures being explored among states to combat the tide of addiction. These include regional data sharing among prescription monitoring programs, regional prevention campaigns directed to the public, regional prescribing guidelines and educational campaigns to ensure safe opioid prescribing, expansion of treatment options across the region, and increased and better coordinated law enforcement efforts.

The group also voiced concern about the Food and Drug Administration's approval of highly addictive painkillers, such as Zohydro ER, an extended release opioid that is not sold in an abuse-deterrent formula. The Governors urged Sec. Burwell to, as our federal partner, "overturn the FDA's erroneous decision to approve Zohydro Extended Release (ER)."

In a separate action, the Governors wrote to Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney in support of Health Canada's decision to require abuse deterrence for certain controlled substances. That requirement currently exists for many of these drugs sold in the United States, but the Governors have been concerned about the smuggling of medications without abuse-deterrent measures from Canada. Those measures make it difficult or impossible for the drugs to be crushed or injected, for example, and harder to abuse.

"Abuse deterrent technology offers an important path forward to prevent abuse of these powerful drugs while preserving access for those patients who need them," the Governors wrote. "This is an important step forward to remove non-abuse deterrent formulations of products from the market. It is important that Health Canada set an appropriate standard requiring drug manufacturers to demonstrate that these products are abuse deterrent. When implemented with comprehensive approaches to prevent and treat opioid addiction, steps such as Health Canada's proposed measure could lead to better control of this tragic epidemic that is affecting both our nations."

The New England Governors met in Massachusetts earlier this year to begin work on shared approaches to tackling the addiction crisis; that work continues.