|Basic InformationLatest News|Expectations, Concerns Vary With Age for Adults at Pain ClinicMusic May Soothe the 'Savage Beast' of Post-Op PainThis Fanged Fish Might Someday Help Ease Your PainSteroid Shots Offer No Long-Term Relief for Low-Back PainInitial Rx Can Affect Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid UseOpioid Dependence Can Start in Just a Few DaysOpioid Painkillers and Xanax or Valium a Deadly Mix: StudyDiazepam Not Beneficial for Acute Low Back Pain in ERKids' OD Risk Rises When Opioids Left Out at HomeChronic Pain More Likely for Poor, Less Educated: StudySome Docs May Help Fuel Opioid Abuse EpidemicTry Drug-Free Options First for Low Back Pain, New Guidelines SayTwelve Percent of Women Fill Opioid Rx After Vaginal DeliveryLow Back Pain? Relax, Breathe and Try YogaOpioids and Alcohol a Dangerous CocktailTreatment of Hips Beneficial in Patients With Low Back PainCommon Painkillers Don't Ease Back Pain, Study FindsHigh Pain Tolerance Tied to 'Silent' Heart Attack RiskWhat You Need to Know When Prescribed an Opioid PainkillerDiscussing Opioid Risks With Patients Reduces MisuseVitamin D Replacement Improves Chronic Widespread PainCelebrex May Not Pose Bigger Heart Risk Than Similar Drugs: StudyMany Take Opioids Reluctantly for Back Pain: Survey'Fake Pills' May Help Ease Back PainHealth Tip: Need Pain Relief?DEA Puts Quota on Production of Opioid PainkillersRisk of Opioid Addiction Up 37 Percent Among Young U.S. AdultsCould Prescribed NSAID Painkillers Raise Heart Failure Risk?Opioid Epidemic Costs U.S. $78.5 Billion Annually: CDCReview Suggests Safe, Effective Ways to Relieve Pain Without MedsFDA: Opioids Plus Sedatives Pose Fatal OD RiskNon-addictive Painkiller Shows Promise in Animal TrialsNighttime Sleep Disturbance Common in Chronic PainCannabis Provides More Pain Relief for Men Than WomenStudy Finds Links Between Chronic Pain, Depression in CouplesAddiction Risk Low for Seniors Taking Post-Op Opioids: StudyDoctors Urged to Prescribe Lower Doses of Opioids, No RefillsPain Raises Risk of Opioid AddictionCommon Surgeries Raise Risk for Opioid Dependence: StudyDoes Medical Marijuana Reduce Need for Other Meds?Programs to Spot Painkiller Abuse Work, But Are UnderusedTighter Opioid Laws in U.S. Haven't Eased MisuseLong-Acting Opioids May Increase Risk of All-Cause MortalityOpioid Painkillers Raise Deadly Heart Risks for Some: StudyPatients Often Prescribed Extra Painkillers, Many Share ThemNew Synthetic Drug Linked to Dozens of Deaths Across U.S.Opioid Prescriptions Drop for First Time in Two DecadesChronic Pain May Trigger Many Cases of Painkiller Addiction: SurveyHealth Tip: Things That Can Aggravate Arthritis PainQuestions and AnswersLinks
FDA: Opioids Plus Sedatives Pose Fatal OD Risk
by By Dennis ThompsonHealthDay Reporter
Updated: Aug 31st 2016
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Mixing prescription opioid painkillers with a class of drugs that includes popular sedatives such as Valium and Xanax can cause a fatal overdose, U.S. health officials warned Wednesday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will require "boxed warnings" on 389 different products to inform health professionals and the public of this potentially lethal drug interaction, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said during a media briefing.
Benzodiazepines -- which include Valium and Xanax -- affect the central nervous system, and are used to treat conditions like anxiety, insomnia and seizures, said Dr. Doug Throckmorton, deputy director of regulatory programs with the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
If benzodiazepines are combined with opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), a drug interaction can occur that could result in coma or death, Throckmorton said.
"Nearly one in three unintentional overdose deaths from prescription opioids also involve benzodiazepines," said Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, who worked with the FDA to produce the new warning.
Products that will carry the boxed warning -- the strictest one possible -- will include benzodiazepines, prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and cough medicines that contain opioids, the FDA said.
Combining these drugs can dangerously depress a person's breathing and make them extremely sleepy, the FDA warned.
Califf said he heard about this threat during a recent trip to the Appalachians, a region hard hit by the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
"One thing really stood out to me, that I heard consistently from each place on our trip -- benzodiazepines and opioids were an increasing threat for overdose as seen in their emergency departments," he said.
"This rise in overdoses and deaths due to the combined use of these products isn't new," Califf added. "Communities have been seeing this trend for some time, but ultimately we needed data in order to act today."
A review conducted by the FDA identified a troubling trend in which patients are often prescribed these drugs in combination, even though they can interact in dangerous ways.
The number of patients prescribed both an opioid pain reliever and a benzodiazepine increased by 41 percent between 2002 and 2014. That translates to an increase of more than 2.5 million opioid painkiller patients also receiving benzodiazepines, Throckmorton said.
"We know approximately half of concurrent benzodiazepine and opioid analgesic prescriptions were dispensed to patients on the same day and prescribed by the same health care provider," Throckmorton said.
More people died from prescription drug overdoses in 2014 than any other year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioids killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, and at least half of those deaths involved a prescription drug, the CDC says.
Doctors routinely prescribe benzodiazepines along with opioids, unaware of the potential overdose risk, Wen said.
"If a patient was in a car accident and experiencing neck pain, a clinician might prescribe opioids for the pain and benzodiazepines for muscle spasms," she said. "A patient who is on benzodiazepines for anxiety disorder might get prescribed opioids for pain relief, and vice versa."
Wen urged doctors to heed the new warning, and patients to review the drugs they're taking.
"I urge patients to look inside your own medicine cabinets and ask, 'What is this medication for? Do I need it? What are the side effects? Could there be a dangerous combination?' " she said. "Please speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns."
For more on opioid overdoses, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This article: Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.