LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Drug companies say a new prescription drug will give doctors another tool to help patients manage pain. But addiction experts fear it's another drug that will be abused.
The Louisville Metro Police Department's Prescription Drug Diversion Unit has been overloaded with cases of prescription drug abuse and the potential approval of another drug is already on their radar. LMPD says they have a total of five detectives working on prescription drug abuse cases.
Addicts build up tolerance to their usual drug of choice and they are always looking for the new pill and one could be on the market soon. Sgt. John McGuire says many abusers turn violent just get their hands on them.
Last month, WAVE 3 aired surveillance video. Police say the man that is in it is Michael Lyles and that he's responsible in a series of Kroger pharmacy robberies. In each one of the holdups police say Lyles would go to the pharmacy and indicate that he's armed and demand pain killers.
The video landed Lyles behind bars and eventually into a courtroom. Lyles is facing several counts of robbery and came before a judge on Friday.
It's cases like these that has LMPD working around the clock.
"Since 2009, we've seen a 300% increase in the number of cases we've worked," said McGuire.
But McGuire said that is just scratching the surface. With prescription drug abuse, McGuire said it affects every part of the community regardless of age, race, sex, or income.
The big drug on the street right now is Opana and McGuire said the number of crimes and deaths related to it have increased. But now drug companies are coming up with another potent painkiller that McGuire says could unleash the worst pill-popping plague since Oxycontin hit the streets.
"The thought is it won't be used illegally, but it will be," said McGuire.
It's called Zohydro. It's not approved just yet, but McGuire is worried it will open a new front in the war against prescription drug abuse.
"This will be a pure hydrocodone, which is expected to be 10 times more potent than your lower dosage of Vicodin," said McGuire.
Oxycontin is a time-released version of pure oxycodone that's been blamed for turning the elderly, housewives and suburban teens into addicts. If Zohydro is approved, it would be the first time pure hydrocodone is sold at the corner pharmacy.
"The last thing we need is another prescription opiate on the street," said McGuire. "There is no lack of prescription pain medication out there so, I guess the one question that comes to mind is why do we need another one?"
McGuire said there does tend be a lack of accountability toward prescription drug companies when it comes to abuse. Many lawmakers are urging the FDA not to approve Zohydro without stringent controls to prevent abuse. McGuire says cases of abuse of prescription medication has made it difficult for many people who have legitimate health concerns to actually get the medication.
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