Patients taking opioids will soon be able to get a secondary prescription for a product that can be used if they overdose on painkillers. The FDA has approved a single-dose delivery system of naloxone that can be administered by family members or caregivers who suspect an overdose. The device, marketed as Evzio, is a handheld automatic injector that gives spoken instructions when activated.
The FDA fast-tracked approval, noting that prescription drug overdose deaths have increased steadily for more than 10 years, surpassing motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Since overdose victims tend to lose consciousness and decline quickly, the hope is that letting caretakers deliver an antidote, instead of having to wait for professional help, will save lives.
The package comes with a trainer device, and family members and caregivers are urged to familiarize themselves with the device's instructions before it is needed. The FDA cautions that repeat doses might be necessary, because naloxone may not work as long as opioids, and that medical attention should still be sought immediately. Caregivers should also know that opioid-dependent people may experience severe withdrawal symptoms when given naloxone, including nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, increased blood pressure, seizures and cardiac arrest.