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The FDA has approved the use of a handheld injector filled with a drug that reverses an opioid overdose. Family members, friends or anyone who finds someone who may have overdosed on heroin or prescription opioids can now administer this first line drug while waiting for health responders to appear on the scene.
The drug Narcan (naloxone hydrochloride) will be available in a pre-filled injector sold under the brand name of Evzio starting this summer. It will still require a prescription but can now be carried in a pocket or stored in a medicine cabinet in case it is urgently needed.
Health care providers in emergency rooms and ambulances have used Narcan for years when an opioid overdose is suspected. Symptoms of opioid overdose are decreased breathing, heart rate or loss of consciousness.
Narcan can only reverse an opioid overdose so it will not revive someone who has overdosed on alcohol or another drug. In addition, the effect of Narcan wears off, so emergency medical care is still urgently needed after it’s given.
According to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, “16,000 people die every year due to opioid-related overdoses. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle crashes,” reported Sci-Tech Today.com.
“The death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade,” according to a 2011 CDC report. “This new finding shows that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers like hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), and oxymorphone (Opana)”.
The response to the new announcement has generally been very positive among experts such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
There are of course, naysayers. According to Medscape, the governor of Maine has publicly said that he does not want these kinds of drugs available to family members because he believes it encourages abuse.