Family, friends or passersby who encounter a person passed out from a heroin or other opioid overdose may soon be able to administer a drug to reverse the effects themselves before waiting for first responders to arrive. The US Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday the approval of an auto-injector device, called Evzio, to administer naloxone hydrochloride. It can be carried in a pocket or stored in a medicine cabinet and will be available by prescription this summer.
“This is an extremely important innovation that will save lives,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said in announcing the approval.
It comes a week after Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency to combat the growing abuse of opiates and recent spike in heroin deaths in the state; his declaration allows police and other emergency personnel to carry Narcan, a form of naloxone administered as an injection or formulated into a nasal spray (which is not FDA approved).
Health officials in Massachusetts began distributing the nasal spray in 2006 to those most likely to witness an overdose, including outreach workers, homeless shelter operators, addicts themselves, and more recently, family members. The program, which started in Boston, has been credited with reversing more than 1,800 overdoses from heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opiates. But its availability remains limited.
Doctors will be able to prescribe Evzio to anybody living in a setting where an opioid overdose can occur -- even if that patient isn’t at risk of overdosing, according to Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director for regulatory programs at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Parents, for example, could keep the auto-injector on hand if they’re taking oxycodone for cancer pain and are worried about a young child accidentally ingesting it; they could also get a prescription if they know their teen is a heroin abuser.
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