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Massachusetts Cannot Ban Zohydro, Federal Judge Says

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Massachusetts cannot ban the new pure hydrocodone drug Zohydro ER (extended release), a federal judge said Monday. The company that makes the drug, Zogenix, argued in a lawsuit that the ban is unconstitutional, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Last Month, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced Zohydro would be banned in the state. He cited a public health emergency stemming from opioid abuse.

The drug is a pure form of the painkiller hydrocodone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zohydro ER in October for patients with pain that requires daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment that cannot be treated with other drugs. Drugs such as Vicodin contain a combination of hydrocodone and other painkillers such as acetaminophen. Zohydro is designed to be released over time, and can be crushed and snorted by people seeking a strong, quick high.

This week, U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel issued a preliminary injunction on the ban. The judge said the state appears to have overstepped its authority in banning Zohydro. She noted Zogenix was likely to be successful in pursuing a court order to permanently lift the ban. In her ruling, Judge Zobel said the ban would “undermine the FDA’s ability to make drugs available to promote and protect the public health.”

“Today’s legal ruling was a positive step forward for Massachusetts patients,” Roger Hawley, Chief Executive Officer of Zogenix, said in a news release. “We invite concerned officials to engage with us to discuss fair and appropriate safeguards for pain medications like Zohydro ER rather than seeking to ban or restrict one specific treatment.”

Governor Patrick said he was disappointed in the ruling, the newspaper notes. “Addiction is a serious enough problem already in Massachusetts without having to deal with another addictive narcotic painkiller sold in a form that isn’t tamper proof,” he said in a statement. “We will turn our attention now to other means to address this public-health crisis.”

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