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FDA Approves Heroin Antidote

On April 3, 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a device called Evzio that will automatically inject the right dose of naloxone into someone that has overdosed on an opioid, such as heroin and prescription painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin. It is believed that this device will be effective at saving lives because the antidote can be administered before an ambulance arrives. Doctors will be able prescribe the device containing the antidote to family members or caregivers.

According the FDA, the device is easy to use: Once turned on, it provides verbal instructions similar to defibrillators. It is about the size of small cellphone or credit card. It is important to understand, however, that the antidote is not a complete cure – that is, additional treatment will be needed, even after the antidote has been administered.

The device contains naloxone which has been previously used by paramedics and emergency room technicians to treat overdoses. However, with the rise in overdoses related to heroin and opioids, the FDA has approved this device to combat what many consider an epidemic. The drug is not only designed for heroin or prescription drug addicts; but for accidental overdoses, those on very high doses of drugs, or unexpected drug interactions.

It is too soon to determine how much the device will cost, but the drug's manufacturer is working with health insurance companies to provide broad coverage. The FDA estimates that 16,000 people die every year from opioid related overdoses. Drug overdose deaths have now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury related deaths in the US.

It is too early to predict the impact this decision by the FDA will have, but it may a step in the right direction to combat opioid related overdoses.