Hydrocodone extended-release: Pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics and behavioral pharmacology of a controversy

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Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zohydro®, an extended release formulation of the opioid analgesic hydrocodone that contains no acetaminophen. This approval was against the recommendation of the FDA's Expert Panel. Subsequently, both chronic pain advocates and anti-drug abuse advocates have steadfastly expressed their support of, or astonishment at this decision. Here, we review the pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, safety and abuse liability of this hydrocodone formulation and how it relates to the Expert Panel's opinion and the FDA decision. We discuss the important issues, risk mitigation, potential use of abuse deterrents, and how the different viewpoints of the Expert Panel and FDA decision makers resulted in the approval and subsequent controversy.

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