By: Samantha Dente
As part of the agency’s Opioids Action Plan, the FDA issued its strongest warning, a required boxed warning, as well as class-wide changes to drug labeling after significant scientific evidence showed the serious risks associated with combining opioid medications with benzodiazepines.
The Opioids Action Plan is an initiative to revise policies to address the prescription opioid abuse epidemic. Benzodiazepines are a class of central nervous system (CNS) depressant drugs. There are about 400 of them currently on the market. Research found that if used at the same time as opioids for pain management, risks include extreme sleepiness, respiratory depression, coma, and death.
The data review found that physicians were increasingly prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines together. The FDA Commissioner has dubbed these findings as a “public health crisis.” Both are widely used drug classes, and when used together have a lethal effect. However, the resulting drug overdoses and deaths are avoidable and preventable, and the FDA’s warning marks a step in the right direction. The FDA’s actions are consistent with the Affordable Care Act’s public health approach focused on prevention, treatment, and intervention.