FDA Approves Opioid Painkiller 1,000 Times Stronger Than Morphine

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

You read that right. The new painkiller, Dsuvia, is 1,000 times stronger than morphine. But what the headline doesn’t say is that it’s also 10 times stronger than fentanyl — the deadly drug that has quickly been replacing what now seems a rather ho-hum oxycontin, in comparison.

The FDA’s approval of Dsuvia was not without controversy, but according to USA Today, it was approved because it will be restricted to limited use only in health care settings, such as hospitals, surgery centers and emergency rooms. Dsuvia dissolves easily on the tongue, with side effects that include extreme tiredness, breathing problems, coma and death, USA Today said.

If history is any indication, like other powerful pain drugs, Dsuvia will soon become the latest pirated, smuggled, crime-inducing drug of the day. Although regular pharmacies won’t be able to sell this drug, and doctors won’t be able to prescribe it, if you go back to the old axiom of where there’s a will, there’s a way, you and I both know that those intent on abusing Dsuvia or black-market selling it will find a way to get it.

And then, due to its strength and prewarnings of side effects — which include death — it won’t be long before you’ll be reading the headlines reporting those deaths.

You would think that it’s bad enough that deadly overdoses involving fentanyl, an incredibly potent synthetic opioid, rose by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014 and another 72 percent between 2014 and 2015, or that over 20,000 of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

But if you’re wondering how things got that bad, you’re asking the same tough questions many others are. The answer is that, in many cases, drugs that were originally intended only for treating severe pain have become go-to treatments for mild and chronic pain, such as back pain.

An example of this is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times more potent than morphine. The FDA initially approved fentanyl for treating breakthrough pain in cancer patients — a type of severe pain that occurs despite the patient being treated with other painkillers.

Yet, in a complaint filed by the U.S. government, it's alleged that Insys, which manufactures fentanyl, focused its marketing campaign on treating pain in general, and doctors responded. And now that we have Dsuvia, specifically designated for health care settings only, I don’t have to tell you what’s going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong — I believe there is a place for painkillers in medical care for severe injuries and suffering. For example, critical care cancer patients and some surgical patients often need relief that can come only from the strongest painkillers.

But that said, when drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, and opioids being responsible for nearly two-thirds of these deaths, I believe it’s time to reassess how we treat pain, and what we treat it with.

This is especially poignant when, on the flip side, people in pain are systematically denied access to a drug that’s never killed anybody — medical marijuana. Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic and is now legal in 29 states. It just seems so incongruous, if not disingenuous, that the FDA would approve another deadly drug while turning its back on something as simple as medical cannabis.

(Yes, the FDA did approve a new synthetic version of medical marijuana, which is predicted to cost upward of $30,000 a year or more, but why allow only synthetic versions, if the natural product works?) If you want to learn more about the laws in your state on medicalmarijuana.procon.org.

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