BUSM prof. researches new drug to prevent opioid overdose

Medical clinicians and researchers are promoting new techniques, especially the life-saving drug naloxene to fight drug overdoses, according to a Boston University School of Medicine press release published Tuesday.

Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdose, according to the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Opioid overdoses kill 16,000 Americans each year and affect all sectors of society, according to the release. In an effort to reduce these numbers, researchers call for increased availability of the drug naloxone and improved cooperation of federal, state and local authorities to improve awareness about drug overdose.

“Community-based overdose prevention programs that include overdose education and naloxene access could help avert unnecessary, preventable death,” said Alexander Walley, a BUSM assistant professor and physician at Boston Medical Center who co-authored the study, in the release.

Walley is the medical director at the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the medical director of the Narcotic Addiction Clinic at the Boston Public Health Commission, according to the BUSM website.

Walley authored the study with lead author Leo Beletsky, an assistant professor at Northeastern University School of Law and Bouve College of Health Sciences and Josiah Rich, a professor at Brown Medical School.

The authors of the article focused on the national problem created by fatal overdoses from opioid drugs. Opioid drugs include heroin and prescription drugs such as oxycodone, according to the release.

Although this drug has the potential to reduce the number of deaths because of opioid overdose, there are many barriers to its use.

There is a critical supply shortage of the generic drug naloxone, which causes the price to increase, according to the release. Doctors are also hesitant to prescribe naloxene because they fear they might be held liable for facilitating dangerous behavior.

However, the authors of the article said increased cooperation and improved awareness of the issues and potential solutions could improve the situation. The federal government could take a role in increasing the supply of the life-saving drug.

Since the drug is being administered by needle, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could also work toward easier delivery of the drug through nasal spray or an auto-injector such as the EpiPen.

In addition, the authors of the study said clinicians need to be more educated about the potential benefits the drug could have for their patients. State and local authorities can increase awareness and education of the problem of drug overdose and the potential naloxene has in critical circumstances.

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