Urge the FDA to Issue Warnings for Dangerous Combination of Medications



In 2013, 22,767 people died of drug overdose deaths that involved prescription drugs and every day in the United States, 44 people continue to die as a result of prescription opioid overdose. Concurrent use of opioids and benzodiazepines increases the risk of fatal overdose.

City and State health directors from across the country have delivered a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling on the agency to adopt labels to explicitly warn about a dangerous combination of medications that is helping drive the nation’s prescription drug overdose epidemic. The “black box warning” would state that the concurrent use of opioids and benzodiazepines increases the risk of fatal overdose. Black box warnings appear on the labels of prescription drugs and call attention to serious or life-threatening risks. A group of nationally renowned academics, researchers, and physicians also signed the petition.

We are calling for your support to sign a public petition to show your support and tell the FDA to require black box warnings on these medications to educate physicians and patients about the dangers of mixing these two drug classes.  

Combining opioids with benzodiazepines is dangerous. Biological data indicate that these two drug classes interact in the brain to place patients at increased risk of respiratory depression and fatal overdose. Epidemiological studies show that nearly 1 in 3 unintentional overdose deaths from prescription opioids also involve benzodiazepines. 

Nonetheless, more patients than ever before are being prescribed both opioids and benzodiazepines, and more are running into serious problems from combined use. Treatment admissions for substance use disorders involving both classes of medications at the same time in the United States increased by 569% from 2000 to 2010.

The science is clear: combining opioids with benzodiazepines is dangerous and is fueling the overdose epidemic. A black box warning will help to educate both patients and clinicians about this potentially lethal drug interaction. By following our recommendations, the FDA can take an important step to reduce the toll of addiction and fatal overdose in communities across the country.

Thank you for  your support on this critical issue.