A few weeks ago, we reported on a new drug being used to combat heroin overdose in the United States. The drug, which was recently approved to be carried among all law enforcement officials in New York City, has already helped prevent a number of needless deaths among heroin addicts. Now an American doctor is pushing to accelerate the development of a new form of the drug that comes as a nasal spray.
The University of Kentucky’s Dr Daniel Wermeling founded his company, AntiOp Inc, to develop the naloxone nasal spray. He has since signed an agreement with Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc to handle further development and marketing. He hopes to have the nasal spray ready to be put into the hands of first responders and other individuals in the very near future.
The current form of the drug is applied intravenously or through direct injection into muscle tissue. It is a common drug found in hospital emergency rooms all across North America and parts of Europe. However, Dr Wermeling does not believe that is good enough. As many as 16,500 Americans die every year from prescription opioids alone. That does not even account for the number of deaths attributed to illicit drugs.
In order to test the effectiveness of the nasal spray as compared to injections and intravenous supply, AntiOp is planning clinical studies set to begin this month. It is hoped that the results of these studies will help Wermeling and the development team ‘fine tune’ the drug and its one-time delivery system so that it is ready for commercial manufacture.
How It Works
Naloxone is a drug that works by breaking the bonds between opioids and opioid receptors in the brain. It also prevents new bonds from being formed. An injection of the drug can prevent the death of someone who has overdosed on an opiate like heroin.
During an overdose scenario, the bonds between opioids and opiate receptors are so numerous that the brain begins to shut down normal functioning of the body. Without quick intervention, death is the inevitable result. Nevertheless, administering naloxone can prevent death in some patients by providing stability until further medical care is available.
The nasal spray form of the drug could revolutionise how heroin overdoses are treated in the field. Without having to worry about all of the ramifications of injecting someone, a police officer or other first responder could simply insert a nosepiece, press a button, and let the device deliver a single dose of the drug, which would then be absorbed by the nasal membranes.
The medical community will be awaiting the results of the trials from AntiOp. If all goes well, the drug could be ready for distribution by the end of this year. It might make it across the Atlantic to Western Europe by sometime next year. We hope it does, if it can help prevent needless deaths from opiate overdose.
Getting Help Now
We would be remiss if we closed this blog post without addressing those who might already be addicted to opioids. While the possibility of a naloxone nasal spray in the near future is very real, you can make a decision that will prevent you from ever having to experience whether it works or not. That decision is one to get help for your opioid addiction.
Drug abuse and heroin addiction help is available through the NHS, private rehab clinics, charities, support groups, and private counsellors. All you need do is ask. If you are willing to commit the time and energy necessary to complete a qualified rehab programme, you can be drug free for the rest of your life. For more information about recovery, talk to your GP or a rehab referral service specialising in helping drug and alcohol abusers.