The FDA approved a rescue pen for heroin and opioid overdoses. According to the FDA, more than 16,000 people die each year from opioid related overdoses. The FDA reports that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death, in what they refer to as “injury deaths” in the Unite States, now surpassing motor vehicle accidents. With the rise of overdose deaths, there has been a push to make available to the general public a ready-to-use antidote, according to the FDA.
On Thursday, the FDA approved the easy-to-use rescue pen which will be prescribed under the name Evzio. The rescue pen can automatically inject the correct dose of the antidote naloxone before emergency personnel arrive. Naloxone is currently used by paramedics and emergency personnel. The rescue pen will be available to the general public as doctors can prescribe it to relatives, or caregivers to keep handy in the medicine cabinet. The FDA says that people without medical training can easily administer the antidote through the rescue pen, according to the FDA. The FDA says that they approved the rescue pen in effort to combat the rise of heroin overdoses and opioid related overdose deaths. Opioids include prescription pains medications like OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and street drugs such as heroin.
The same day the FDA approved the use of the rescue pen for heroin overdoses, the state of New York implemented that all police officers in the state will now carry the antidote naloxone. In New Jersey, 32 police departments are participating in a special program where law enforcement personnel will carry the antidote naloxone. According to Dr. Charles P. O’Brien, a Penn professor, the antidote naloxone is the best that there is in medicine. He’s been studying naloxone and its predecessors for over 40 years. Dr. O’Brien suggests that naloxone should be administered to anyone found unconscious. He says no damage will be done to the patient, even if there is no overdose.
Naloxone was discovered over 50 years ago and was one of the first drugs that stopped opioids from attaching to the brain, according to Dr. O’Brien. Naloxone isn’t classified as a narcotic drug and will not cause addition, according to Dr. O’Brien. Heroin overdoses typically involve the user becoming sleepy, almost in a comatose condition. Ultimately, the drug user will stop breathing and die. According to Dr. O’Brien, Naloxone acts immediately, by blocking the opioid receptors, and thus breathing is restored in seconds. Paramedics and emergency room doctors have been using Naloxone for years.
According to the FDA, the recent prescription painkiller epidemic spans all segments of society, with the largest increases being seen in the suburbs. Unfortunately, it has caused a parallel rise in heroin addition, as pill users discover that heroin costs a fraction of the cost of prescription pain medications, and is readily available.
Although the FDA approved the rescue pen for heroin overdoses, they have stated that the use of an antidote is never a substitute for immediate medical attention. Healthcare officials are still unclear on how much the rescue pen will cost, and whether it will be covered by insurance.
By John J. Poltonowicz