The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new form of the painkiller OxyContin designed to limit the potential for abuse and curb the number of overdose deaths caused by the drug. The new drug, Targiniq ER, is made by Perdue Pharma. It combines the active painkiller ingredient oxycodone with naloxone, a medication which is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
The release of Targiniq ER is part of a growing effort to curb the epidemic of opioid painkiller abuse in the U.S. Narcotic painkillers such as OxyContin are responsible for more than 16,000 fatal overdoses each year, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug overdoses from prescription medications are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpassing car accidents just a few years ago.
Targiniq ER is designed to limit the potential for abuse and overdose by using naloxone to block the euphoric effect of OxyContin. Some patients who abuse the painkiller crush the drug in order to snort it. The naloxone in Targiniq becomes active when the pills are crushed, but doesn’t take effects when the pills are swallowed whole. Because most people who abuse OxyContin take the pills orally, some critics have charged that the abuse-deterrent ingredients in Targiniq will not help to limit the dangers of the drug and could actually contribute to greater abuse.
The FDA has stated that Targiniq ER should not be prescribed for as-needed pain relief, and should only be used on patients who have not been able to treat their pain through other medications. The agency will require the manufacturer of Targiniq to conduct research to assess the risks of misuse, abuse, increased sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia), addiction, overdose, and death when the drug is taken by patients for more than 12 weeks.