(City Journal) -- The death of Prince—likely the result of prescription opioid abuse—is the latest manifestation of what has been called a national opioid epidemic. Now an advisory panel has unanimously recommended that the FDA make mandatory a currently elective program—Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, or REMS— designed to educate physicians about the risks of opioid misuse and abuse. The advisory panel’s recommendation is an example of regulatory overreach—based on little or no evidence—that the FDA should reject.
Without question, the United States has an opioid problem. The Centers for Disease Control report that 2 million Americans are currently abusing or dependent on prescription opioids such as Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin. Nearly 20,000 Americans die from overdoses of these medicines every year. A recent Health Affairs study found that hospitalizations related to opioid abuse have skyrocketed, along with the associated costs—$15 billion in 2012 for opioid-related inpatient care. The medical research firm Castlight Health reports that workplace disruptions from opioid abuse cost employers $10 billion annually.