Bad news for Dr. Greg House and other, non-fictional chronic pain patients. The FDA advisory panel that met yesterday about the effects of excessive doses of acetaminophen made another recommendation to the FDA—to take popular painkillers Vicodin and Percocet (and their generic versions) off the market because of the effect both drugs can have on the liver when taken for extended periods. The FDA will most likely follow this recommendation.
Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen; Percocet is oxycodone and acetaminophen. While oxycodone is available without the acetaminophen (as OxyContin) hydrocodone is not available alone in the United States. A ban would be problematic for patients and doctors alike.
“It ties the doctor’s hands when you put the two drugs together,” said Dr. Scott M. Fishman, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of California, Davis, and a former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. “There’s no reason you can’t get the same effect by using them separately.”
Dr. Fisher said the combinations were prescribed so often for the sake of convenience, but added, “When you’re using controlled substances, you want to err on the side of safety rather than convenience.”
Still, some doctors predicted that the recommendation would put extra burdens on physicians and patients.
“More people will be suffering from pain,” said Dr. Sean Mackey, chief of pain management at Stanford University Medical School. “More people will be seeing their doctors more frequently and running up health care costs.”
Most discussion after this panel has been about the restrictions on over-the-counter medications contaning acetaminophen, but removing commonly prescribed drugs from the market entirely is something else entirely.
Panel Recommends Ban on 2 Popular Painkillers [New York Times] (Thanks, Kelly!)