The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week approved a new nasal spray to reverse opioid overdoses, the Associated Press reports.
The drug, nalmefene hydrochloride (sold as Opvee), is similar to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, but is longer-acting. Opvee will be available via prescription. It is approved for patients age 12 and older.
Studies funded by the federal government found Opvee achieved similar recovery results to the leading brand of naloxone nasal spray, Narcan.
Researchers in the pharmaceutical industry and the U.S. government say the new medication can have a role in reversing overdoses due to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Fentanyl stays in the body longer than heroin and other opioids, so some people require multiple doses of naloxone over several hours to fully reverse an overdose. “The whole aim of this was to have a medication that would last longer but also reach into the brain very rapidly,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Dr. Lewis Nelson of Rutgers University, an emergency medicine physician and former adviser to the FDA on opioids, told AP a potential downside to the new treatment is the risk of long-lasting withdrawal. “We’re not suffering from a naloxone shortage where we need to use an alternative,” he said. “We have plenty of it and it works perfectly well.”