A new drug called Evzio, an auto-injector for naloxone hydrochloride, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat heroin and other opioid overdoses. The injector is similar to the Epi-Pen, and is designed for families and caregivers to administer a single dose of the drug, to quickly reverse the effects of opioids such as heroin and morphine, and prescription opioid drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone.
Naloxone has been previously used in ambulances and hospitals, but is now available by prescription, for non-medical personnel to store and use in emergency situations. It is very user-friendly and requires no previous training because it is given in the muscle or under the skin. When Evzio is turned on, it gives verbal instructions that tell the user on how to properly administer the medication.
The drug works by preventing the heroin or other opioid from slowing down the breathing to the point that it stops completely, according to a program director at FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Immediate medical care is still extremely necessary and should be sought as soon as Evzio is used. The drug should be used every two to three minutes while waiting for emergency medical services because the effects of the heroin or other opioid will outlast the Evzio, and cause breathing issues again. “Having these auto-injectors out there is going to save lives, for sure” said Robert Shesser, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University.
Heroin use in the United States is a very big problem, and with so many deaths attributed to overdoses, there is great hope for the new FDA approved drug Evzio. At a time when there has been such an overall rise in heroin use and overdose deaths, the Associated Press prompted states and state agencies across the nation to gather information and statistics related to the drug. The results are very straight forward.
From 2011 to 2012 the number of heroin-related deaths in Florida nearly doubled from 57 to 108. In Louisiana, the number of overdose deaths went from five in 2008 to 110 in 2012. The state of Michigan saw overdose deaths increase from 271 between 1999 and 2002, to 728 in the two-year period between 2010 and 2012. New Hampshire had an increase from 16 in 2008, to 38 in 2012, and up to 68 last year. In 2011, the overdose deaths in New Jersey numbered 443, and jumped to 591 in 2012. Ohio had an increase from 338 overdose deaths in 2010, to 426 in 2011. The state of Oregon has had an average of over 100 deaths a year for the past five years. The amount of overdoses in Virginia have steadily increased from 101 in 2011, to 197 in 2013. In West Virginia in 2012, 70 people died from overdoses, up from 22 in 2007. The number of deaths from the drug in Texas, increased from 111 in 1999, to 364 in 2011. Connecticut saw a 48 percent increase in overdose deaths due to heroin mixed with other drugs, from 174 in 2012, to 257 in 2013. The number of people dying from overdoses in Massachusetts since November 1, 2013 are astounding. With 185 people overdosing in this short time frame, the state’s governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency.
In Illinois’ DuPage County alone, the number of deaths per year were steadily in the twenties from 2007 to 2011, but rose to 43 in 2012, and 46 in 2013. The youngest person that died was a 15-year-old.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2010, over 16,000 people died from opoid-related overdoses, due in large part to prescription drug overdoses. Not only is heroin a problem, but prescription painkillers or opioids, are responsible for 3 out of 4 prescription drug overdoses. In 2008, the drugs were related to 14,800 overdose deaths, more than the combined cocaine and heroin deaths. In 2010, more than 12 million people reportedly used these prescription opioids nonmedically, or without prescriptions and medical purposes. Deaths from prescription painkillers involve at least one other drug about half the time. Alcohol is also frequently involved. In Massachusetts, the amount of people dying from opioids and combinations of them doubled from 2000 to 2011, with a reported 642 deaths.
In New York in 2011 there were over 2,000 opioid overdoses. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently announced a Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program in which policemen are carrying kits with naxolone, to be used when it’s needed in overdose situations. The kit comes with two pre-filled syringes of the drug that doesn’t expire for two years, and other items to ensure safe administration. It costs about $60. Schneiderman said that over 500 lives were saved in Suffolk County where policemen have been carrying the drug since 2012, as part of a pilot program.
Over the years, people around the world have seen heroin cause, or play a role in the deaths of many famous stars, who are not immune to the catastrophic possibilities of the drug. These include people such as: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Douglas Glenn Colvin, Peter Farndon, and John Ritchie aka: Sid Vicious to name a few. Others like Chris Kelly, Cory Monteith, Heath Ledger, and Chris Farley had fatal drug mixtures including opioids as their causes of death.
Now with the new FDA approved drug Evzio, heroin and other opioid overdoses can be treated immediately by non-medical personnel, and lives can be saved. “While the larger goal is to reduce the need for products like these by preventing opioid addiction and abuse, they are extremely important innovations that will help to save lives,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
By Twanna Harps