San Diego-based Zogenix, which makes Zohydro, said the drug is no more potent, per milligram, than other hydrocodone medications. The company also said that it set up a board of experts to guard against abuse and that its sales representatives are not being paid based on volume, but rather on their efforts to ensure prescribers, pharmacists and patients understand the medication's risks and benefits.
Zohydro belongs to a family of medicines known as opiates or opioids. Others include morphine, heroin and oxycodone, the painkiller in OxyContin.
Its painkilling power comes from hydrocodone. Other medications, such as Vicodin, contain the same narcotic but also include acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.
The FDA said Zohydro meets its standards and provides an important option for patients with chronic pain. The agency, which in 2010 approved a crush-resistant version of OxyContin to discourage abuse, said abuse-deterring formulations of Zohydro are in the early stages of development.
Shumlin said he chose strict regulation over an outright ban, at least in part to avoid what could be expensive litigation.
"I expect that Massachusetts is likely to confront that and we really wanted to get something done quickly," Shumlin said.
Vermont's emergency rule to prescribe Zohydro includes requirements that prescribers conduct a thorough medical evaluation and risk assessment.
Associated Press reporter Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.