Opioid Medications to Get New Boxed Warnings

HealthDay News — Immediate-release opioid pain medications will get new boxed warnings about the dangers of misuse, the US FDA has announced. 

“We are at a time when the unfathomable tragedies resulting from addiction, overdose, and death has become one of the most urgent, devastating public health crises facing our country,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, told reporters at a Tuesday news briefing. He said the agency is working with other agencies, drug makers, doctors, and patients “to prevent abuse, save lives and treat dependence while still providing patients in pain access to effective relief.”

The new labeling rules are mostly aimed at immediate-release versions of opioids. According to an FDA news release, the new label requirements include: a new boxed warning on the “serious risks of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death;” a new prescribing guideline that immediate-release opioids “should be reserved for pain severe enough to require opioid treatment and for which alternative treatment options are inadequate or not tolerated;” and labeling stressing the risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome in infants born to mothers who took opioids during their pregnancy.

Besides this new labeling for immediate-release opioids, the FDA is also mandating other revised labeling for all opioids. All of these drugs will now include information on labels warning of potential harmful interactions of the drug with other medicines that can result in serotonin syndrome, the agency said. Labels will also warn of possible opioid effects on the endocrine system.

Required safety labeling language can be found here.