The prevalence of heroin-related deaths in the US has caused alarm and growing concern that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder himself described it as an "urgent public health crisis."
Heroin overdose deaths has jumped 45 percent from 2006 and 2010 that the attorney general urged enforcement agencies to train their personnel on how to use a drug that could counter the potentially fatal effects of opioid overdose.
Use of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, has so far proved helpful in more than 10,000 overdose cases but the drug is generally administered by trained medical personnel and isn't readily available to the family and friends of drug abusers despite that it could be very handy and life-saving in emergency situations.
A new development, however, will change this soon as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally greenlighted a prescription treatment that family members and caregivers can use to treat a person who had an opioid overdose.
In a news release Thursday, FDA announced that it has finally given its approval to Evzio, an auto-injector that people around drug abusers can use to deliver a single dose of Naloxone in case of overdose. It works much like the EpiPen but instead of stopping allergic reactions, it reverses opioid overdose. Just like EpiPen, Evzio is also small enough to be easily carried in the pocket and stored in the medicine cabinet.
"This is a big deal, and I hope gets wide attention," said Dr. Carl R. Sullivan III, director of the addictions program at West Virginia University. "It's pretty simple: Having these things in the hands of people around drug addicts just makes sense because you're going to prevent unnecessary mortality."
The device gives out verbal instructions when it is turned on to guide the user on how to deliver the medication. Nonetheless, those who will use it are urged to get training and practice before administering it to anyone. A trainer device comes along with Evzio that relatives and caregivers can use to practice on.
The FDA also pointed out that Evzio does not replace the need for immediate medical care which means that trained medical professionals should still be contacted in case of an overdose.