Four American drug companies are developing a new pain killer said to be ten times stronger than the popular prescription painkiller Vicodin, which has many addiction experts concerned.

The pharmaceutical companies have begun testing on pills that contain hydrocodone in its pure form, the first of its kind, CBS News reports. Hydrocodone is in the opiate family along with heroin, methadone, oxycodone, and morphine. If approved, this would be the first time patients could legally buy pure hydrocodone.

“I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin,” April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, told CBS. “We just don’t need this on the market.”

OxyContin came on the market in 1995. Manufactured by Purdue Pharma, one of the companies producing this new painkiller. The pill was designed to draw out medication over several hours but addicts were able to circumvent the time-released feature by crushing up the pill.

Now, OxyContin has become the most abused prescription medication in the United States; hydrocodone is the second.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, emergency department visits quadrupled between 2000 and 2009 due to hydrocodone abuse.

“You’ve got a person on your product for life, and a doctor’s got a patient who’s never going to miss an appointment, because if they did and they didn’t get their prescription, they would feel very sick,” said Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. “It’s a terrific business model, and that’s what these companies want to get in on.”

San Diego-based pharmaceutical company Zogenix hopes to bring to market its hydrocodone product, Zohyadro, in early 2013. Rival companies Perdue Pharma, Cephalon, and Egalet are also developing their own versions.

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