Drug overdose treatment approved for public use by prescription - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Drug overdose treatment approved for public use by prescription

New Orleans EMTs respond to more and more heroin emergencies, and the medicine they use to treat overdoses may soon be available by prescription for everyone else to help save lives.

A quick injection of medicine is supposed to help someone start breathing again after an overdose.

"I think this is something that can really save lives," said Dr. Jeffrey Elder, the New Orleans EMS medical director.

The FDA has approved a device that would work like an EpiPen. It's designed for family and friends to administer to someone with an addiction to opioids such as pain pills or heroin.

"What this allows you to do is immediately treat and reverse that effect of the opioid," said Elder.

New Orleans EMTs already use the medicine in the device, Narcam, to treat overdoses. Data shows they have had to use the drug more and more often.

In the first quarter of 2013, EMS treated 100 heroin or suspected heroin users with Narcam. In the same time period this year, EMS treated 148 heroin or suspected heroin users with the medicine.

"I think heroin use right now is an epidemic among young people," said Steve Kessler, the clinical director at Addiction Recovery Resources.

Kessler said once someone becomes addicted, an overdose could happen at any time.

"I've had patients that have died in their bed where their parents found them upstairs dead. It can happen in their car. I've had patients pulled over on the side of the road, they stopped on the side of the road to use [heroin], and overdosed," said Kessler.

Kessler said the new device will be better socially accepted when people understand the medical aspect of addiction.

"It's not a moral problem, it's not a social failing, it's not anything like that. If we treat it as a medical illness, nobody thinks twice about carrying an EpiPen for any sort of allergy," said Kessler.

Kessler said his patients are from all walks of society: from urban and suburban middle-class youth to Catholic high schools and colleges. So, he says, arming everyone with the best knowledge about addiction - and the best tools - will be the best way to save lives.

"It's a deadly disease, and it will kill like other diseases will, and if untreated that can happen at any moment," said Kessler.

The approved device is called Evzio.

In a news release, the director of the Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Bob Rappaport, M.D. said, "Evzio is the first combination drug-device product designed to deliver a dose of naloxone [also known as narcam] for administration outside of a health care setting. Making this product available could save lives by facilitating earlier use of the drug in emergency situations."

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