WHEELING - West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey fears the new super-potent pain killing drug Zohydro could add to drug addiction troubles in the state, and he hopes the product won't become the next "OxyContin" in West Virginia.
"We don't want to replicate the OxyContin mess," he said. "We have a lot of substance abuse problems in the state, and we have the highest prescription drug mortality rate in the country. We don't want another problem."
Morrisey visited the Northern Panhandle last week to talk economic development with local leaders, and while here he also met with local law enforcement agents to discuss West Virginia's drug abuse problem. He believes the issues of economic growth and drug addiction to be related.
"We know that drug abuse is a terrifying scourge on the Northern Panhandle as it is across the state," he said. "We've been spending a lot of time finding ways we can educate the public, pharmacists and physicians about Zohydro-ER (extended release). We're hopeful this drug doesn't become the next Oxycontin. It's a very powerful pain medicine, and we're trying to talk to people that it currently lacks deterrent technologies and may be subject to abuse."
The effect on a person could be extremely negative just by consuming two capsules of the very strong product, Morrisey said.
"We want to make sure since the product is on the market now, people are educated about it. We don't want to see the OxyContin epidemic replicated."
He has joined with 28 other attorneys general from across the nation to determine how Zohydro became approved by the FDA despite its potential for addiction. The FDA's advisory committee voted 12-2 against approval of the drug.
"We are trying to better understand the FDA's thinking, and I'm not satisfied with the answer the FDA has given me," he said. "We know the FDA advisory committee rejected the product's approval. And I wrote a letter to the FDA asking for the reasons for the approval, and really haven't received a good enough response.
"We have to continually go back to them and educate people in the state to make certain problems don't occur with this product."
Morrisey said his office will communicate with the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy to get reports on the use of Zohydro. He also wants to work with the State Board of Medicine to make certain physicians are educated about the drug.
"And we want to continually talk to law enforcement across the state about it so as they begin to pick up any trends about the product we can collaborate on strategies to push back against it," he said.