Drugmakers push new 'abuse-deterrent' opioids — unclear if they will reduce overdoses

While there is little proof the drug industry's new harder-to-manipulate opioids will actually help reduce opioid overdoses rates, the products have already racked up billions in sales, according to a recent installment of an ongoing series examining the intricacies of the opioid crisis. The series of reports is the result of a collaboration between the Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity.

The new drugs — known as abuse-deterrent formulations, or ADFs — are designed to be harder to crush or dissolve. This feature, according to the drugmakers, makes them difficult to snort or inject. However, the products' addictive properties are still present when simply swallowed. According to the report, national data from an industry-sponsored tracking system suggests opioid abusers quickly stop using the new products in favor of older painkillers or heroin.

While making opioids more difficult to abuse seems like an intuitively sound step to take, some experts worry the drugmakers' nationwide lobbying campaign is distracting policy makers and regulatory agencies from taking action to more effectively deal with the crises and guide physicians away from prescribing opioids when possible.

"If we've learned one lesson from the last 20 years on opioids it's that these products have very, very high inherent risks," said Caleb Alexander, MD, co-director of Johns Hopkins University's Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness in Baltimore. "My concern is that they'll contribute to a perception that there is a safe opioid, and there's no such thing as a fully safe opioid."

To read the full report on from The AP and The Center for Public Integrity, click here.

More articles on population health: 
West Virginia flooded with millions of painkillers amid surging overdose rates 
Rate of pregnant women using marijuana rising, study finds 
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