Addictions Expert Warns Against Dangers of New Opiate Painkiller

Richard D. Blondell, MD

Richard D. Blondell, MD

Published March 7, 2014

The risks of the new painkiller Zohydro — an extended-release formulation of hydrocodone — far outweigh its benefits and could lead to more overdoses, according to Richard D. Blondell, MD, vice chair for addiction medicine and professor of family medicine.

“We already have a prescription drug problem, and the way this drug is packaged makes it easy to abuse.”
Richard D. Blondell, MD
Vice chair for addiction medicine and professor of family medicine

Zohydro Could Worsen Prescription Drug Epidemic

“We already have a prescription drug problem, and the way this drug is packaged makes it easy to abuse,” says Blondell.

He emphasizes that a certain percentage of these products will always be diverted to illicit use.

“Why introduce a new product that will pose unnecessary risks for those who are already abusing prescription drugs as well as for patients who could become addicted simply by being prescribed these drugs?” he asks.

Ties Between Prescription Quantities, Opioid Abuse

Blondell questions the need for the drug. “Zohydro is just another opiate product in a market that’s already flooded with them,“ he says.

In 2008, he and his colleagues published a study in the Journal of Addictive Diseases that revealed a definite correlation between the quantity of prescriptions written for hydrocodone and the incidence of addiction-related problems.

Addiction Prevention is ‘Best Strategy’

“Although effective treatments are available and we are working to increase access to those treatments, the best strategy is to prevent addiction in the first place,” says Blondell, who also studies alcoholism and the relationship between chronic pain and addiction.

He directs a new national center aimed at training physicians to address addiction through early intervention and prevention.

The National Center for Physician Training in Addiction Medicine — established at the University at Buffalo with support from the American Board of Addiction Medicine Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation — is developing curricula and outreach strategies to help primary care physicians better address substance abuse.

The center also works with other national medical organizations to integrate addiction care into the mainstream health care system.

Training and Educating Physicians

Blondell founded the Department of Family Medicine’s addiction medicine fellowship, one of 23 postgraduate addiction medicine fellowships in the United States.

He sees patients through UBMD, the university’s practice plan, and has been involved in efforts to educate practicing physicians on safer prescribing practices.

Additionally, he has helped develop monitoring systems that identify possible prescription misuse and diversion.