Rule of thumb when you submit a letter to the editor you should always follow-up to ensure that your letter has been received. This policy has served me well over the years, that is until I tried to follow-up on two letters to the editor that I sent in response to two article the Boston Globe had run on the acetaminophen-free opioid, Zohydro ER .
I felt compelled to respond because I was getting tired of reading and hearing the same incorrect statements being repeated time and time again by various media outlets. Primarily the mischaracterization that Zohydro, which is a hydrocodone, was somehow 10 to 50 times more potent (take your pick) than hydrocodone, no one seemed to question this illogical statement – because how can hydrocodone be more potent than itself? Of course, the mistake so many have made was in trying to compare “regular” Vicodin (hydrocodone with acetaminophen, aka Tylenol) to Zohydro ER (a hydrocodone with no acetaminophen and in which the medication is released over a period of time). So while the maximum recommended dosage of Vicodin can range from 40mg to 60mg depending on the type of Vicodin the maximum recommended dosage of Zohydro ER cannot exceed 50mg twice in a 24-hour period. So Zohydro ER is never 5 times let alone 10 times more potent, as cited so incorrectly by our erstwhile media.
Also another common omission by so many media outlets is that Zohydro is the first and only extended-release hydrocodone that doesn’t contain acetaminophen. This is in contrast to other opioids (even immediate release varieties) that contain either acetaminophen or some other additional ingredient. Having an opioid that contains no acetaminophen is an important tool in the pain management toolkit for people living with severe chronic pain. Of course, there’s the consideration of the abuse factor, but this pales in comparison to the estimated 6 million people living with severe chronic pain, whose voice is being drowned out by the nearly rabid and hysterical outcries of those involved with addiction issues.
As both a person living with severe chronic pain and a registered nurse, I can understand the reticence of those confronted with the issues of addiction. However I also find them unwilling to consider the needs of individuals living with intractable, severe and chronic pain. Many severe, chronic pain suffers have had to depend on opioids containing acetaminophen (done solely to “curb” the potential abuse of these same opioids) that there is a real risk of liver damage, which is why access to Zohydro ER is so critical.
Meanwhile this person wonders why no one answers the phone at the Boston Globe? How can the good people of Boston expect fair and balanced reporting if the Boston Globe only chooses to report one side of the story? Then again this is one of the main reasons so many newspapers are losing readership these days, they can’t bother to pick up the phone and, they can’t bother to report fairly both sides of the story. I guess yellow journalism is alive and well.
Finally after multiple calls and messages left to numerous individuals at the Boston Globe over many, many days — miracle of miracle the writer Milton Valencia answered his phone when I called. But when I expressed my concerns about what I believed were inaccuracies in his two articles on Zohydro ER, he suddenly had to go because he was on a deadline and anyway it didn’t really matter since he spoke with the folks at Zogenix (the makers of Zohydro ER) and they had no issues with his coverage.
You can read the two Boston Globe articles BG Judge blocks Massachusetts ban on painkiller Massachusetts and Mass. sued over restrictions on painkiller Zohydro and my letters to the editor L BG Zohydro5 and L BG Zohydro 140611b.