Adapted from LA Times–
The Food and Drug Administration approved the sale, by prescription, of the pre-filled auto-injector of the drug naloxone that can reverse the effects of narcotics, which include prescription painkillers, such as Norco, Lortab, Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin, as well as heroin.
Federal officials said they hoped a new “rescue pen” would help reduce the death toll from overdoses involving prescription painkillers.
Naloxone has been a workhorse drug in emergency departments battling the relentless rise in painkiller overdoses over the last decade.
A huge increase in the use of narcotic painkillers has been accompanied by a rise in addiction and overdoses, which are now responsible for more than 16,000 deaths each year. The surge in painkiller-involved overdoses has pushed drugs ahead of traffic accidents as a leading cause of death in the U.S. and prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare the problem an epidemic in 2011.
The rescue pen is part of a widespread campaign by public health officials, healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry to find ways to promote the safe use of the drugs and reduce deaths.
A 2012 Times investigation of nearly 4,000 deaths involving prescription drugs in Southern California found that most victims overdosed at home, often with family members or friends nearby.
The rescue pen, to be marketed under the commercial name Evzio by the Richmond, Va., firm Kaleo Inc., is modeled on devices such as those that deliver epinephrine to patients with anaphylactic reactions, or insulin to diabetics.
The use of if is not without risks. Among the opioid-dependent patients, a shot of naloxone can prompt sudden and severe opioid withdrawal, which can cause nausea, vomiting, accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure, seizures and cardiac arrest.