Drug Maker to Stop Sales of Opana ER

By Pat Anson, Editor

Endo International has agreed to voluntarily remove Opana ER from the market, one month after the Food and Drug Administration said safety risks posed by the pain medication outweigh its benefits. Opana ER is the brand name for Endo’s extended release opioid painkiller oxymorphone.

“Endo International continues to believe in the safety, efficacy, and favorable benefit-risk profile of Opana ER when used as intended, and notes that the Company has taken significant steps over the years to combat misuse and abuse,” the company said in a statement.

“Endo reiterates that neither the FDA's withdrawal request nor Endo's decision to voluntarily remove Opana ER from the market reflect a finding that the product is not safe or effective when taken as prescribed.”

If Endo had not agreed to stop Opana sales, the FDA would have taken steps to require its removal by withdrawing approval for the drug. The company said it would work with the FDA to remove Opana “in a manner that looks to minimize treatment disruption for patients” and to give patients time to consult with doctors about other alternative painkillers.

The FDA action is the first time the agency has taken steps to stop an opioid painkiller from being sold. Opana was reformulated by Endo in 2012 to make it harder to abuse, but addicts quickly discovered they could still inject it. The FDA said Opana was linked to serious outbreaks of HIV, hepatitis C and a blood clotting disorder spread by infected needles.

Next week the FDA will meet with “external thought leaders” to review the effectiveness of other painkillers made with abuse deterrent formulas, which make medications harder for addicts to crush or liquefy for snorting and injecting.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, has hinted the agency could take other painkillers off the market.

“We will continue to take regulatory steps when we see situations where an opioid product’s risks outweigh its benefits, not only for its intended patient population but also in regard to its potential for misuse and abuse,” Gottlieb said last month.

“I’m hopeful that this signals a change at FDA—and that Opana might be just the first opioid that they’ll consider taking off the market. It’s too soon to tell,” Andrew Kolodny, MD, Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) told Mother Jones.

Endo said it will incur a pre-tax impairment charge of $20 million in the second quarter of 2017 to write-off the remaining book value of Opana.  Sales of Opana reached nearly $159 million in 2016.