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Powerful Narcotic Painkiller Up For FDA Approval

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

by Rob Stein, NPR

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to decide whether to approve a powerful new prescription painkiller that’s designed to relieve severe pain quickly, and with fewer side effects than other opioids.

While some pain experts say the medicine could provide a valuable alternative for some patients in intense pain, the drug (called Moxduo) is also prompting concern that it could exacerbate the epidemic of abuse of prescription painkillers and overdoses.

An FDA advisory committee is holding a daylong hearing Tuesday to decide whether to recommend that the agency approve the drug.

“This is a product that is very easy to misuse, very easy to crush and snort or crush and inject,” says addiction specialist Andrew Kolodny.

Moxduo for the first time combines morphine and oxycodone in one capsule. It’s designed to provide quick relief to patients suffering severe pain from accidents or surgeries, such as knee replacements, back surgeries or cancer operations, says Ed Rudnic, COO of QRxPharma, the company that makes Moxduo.

The drug allows patients to take lower doses of the two narcotics than they’d need if they took either of the medicines alone, Rudnic says.

“We believe that we’ve achieved some benefit in reducing the risk of some of the respiratory complications of these strong opioids,” he says.

Suppressed breathing and other respiratory complications are the most serious risks of these drugs — the main reason people die from taking too much.

Some pain experts think the idea behind Moxduo is a good one. A lot of patients can’t take enough morphine or oxycodone to ease their discomfort because of the risk to breathing and other side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness and severe itchiness.

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One in Ten California Veterans are Uninsured

One in ten California veterans lack health insurance. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Ten percent of California veterans don’t have health insurance or don’t use Veterans Affairs (V.A.) care. That’s just slightly below the 10.3 percent rate among veterans around the country.

That’s according to a report by the Urban Institute. Co-author Jennifer Haley says there are 108,000 uninsured vets in the state, second only to the number in Texas.

“In our study someone is uninsured if they don’t have any of the types of insurance coverage you’d think of for general population and they also don’t report using V.A. care,” says Haley.

Haley used data from the 2010 American Community Survey to look at the rates among non-elderly vets, ages 19-64. She says disproportionate numbers of the uninsured were also unemployed and unmarried. Continue reading