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Opioids: Don’t mix and medicate

| Updated on March 10, 2018

After an extensive review of scientific evidence, the US Food and Drug Administration has called for class-wide changes to drug labeling, including patient information to alert healthcare providers and patients of the serious risks associated with the combined use of certain opioid medications and a class of central nervous system (CNS) depressant drugs called benzodiazepines.

The FDA is requiring boxed warnings – its strongest warning – and patient-focused Medication Guides for prescription opioid analgesics, opioid-containing cough products, and benzodiazepines – nearly 400 products in total – with information about the serious risks associated with using these medications at the same time.

Risks include extreme sleepiness, respiratory depression, coma and death. The FDA’s steps are part of the agency’s Opioids Action Plan, which focuses on policies aimed at reversing the prescription opioid abuse epidemic, while still providing patients in pain access to effective and appropriate pain management.

“It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf.

Opioid analgesics are powerful pain-reducing medications that include prescription oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, among other drugs, under both brand and generic names. Certain other opioid medications are also approved to treat cough. Opioid analgesic misuse and abuse have increased significantly in the United States over the past two decades, and represent major public health concerns due to the risk of coma and fatal respiratory depression associated with opioid analgesic overdose.

Benzodiazepines are drugs typically prescribed for the treatment of neurological and/or psychological conditions, including anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorders. Both classes of drugs depress the central nervous system (“CNS depressants”); however, each has unique pharmacology, safety risks, and labeling information related to its use.

Source: FDA

Published on September 02, 2016

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