from the permanent-fix dept.
Dr. Lowe, from In The Pipeline, writes about the development of a vaccine for heroin:
At first thought, that might seem like a weird idea. Drugs of abuse, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine et al. are small molecules, and as such are too small to set off immune responses on their own. But a strategy could be to attach them to some larger protein that can raise antibodies – if those antibodies recognize the drug-labeled part of the protein conjugate, they may well retain activity against the drug molecule in its free state.
[...] It's been a long road. The first morphine immunoconjugate was described in 1970, and a morphine vaccine was tested in rabbits in 1975. But very little progress in the field occurred over the next twenty years or so, partly because methadone treatment for heroin addiction had become widely used. It's interesting to note, though, that vaccine development work against amphetamine seems to have followed a roughly similar path
[...] It would seem that we really are getting close to human clinical trials for some of these, which will be quite interesting. A drug-abuse vaccine is not going to be magic, though. Because of the specificity of the immune response, someone who's been vaccinated against heroin would almost certainly still respond to morphine, and most definitely would to compounds like fentanyl or oxycodone [...] But vaccines could, at the same time, provide the extra help needed for people to finally break free of a particular drug, and addicts who are really trying to quit need all the help that they can get.
I'd say that last part is the key. One of the big issues in drug addiction is (in the end) a philosophical argument about free will (which would explain why it never gets resolved!) Is drug addiction a disease, a choice, a behavior, a biochemical problem. . .the arguments go on forever, complicated by the way that different people attach different meanings to those terms.
Cook County now gives at-risk inmates the overdose-reversing drug naloxone upon their release from jail and Los Angeles is poised to follow suit, putting the antidote in as many hands as possible as part of a multifaceted approach to combatting the nation's opioid epidemic.
Cook County Jail, the largest single-site jail in the country, has trained about 900 inmates how to use naloxone nasal spray devices since last summer and has distributed 400 of them to at-risk men and women as they got out. The devices can undo the effects of an opiate overdose almost immediately and are identical to those used by officers in many of the country's law enforcement agencies.
[...] It is too soon to gauge the effectiveness of Cook County's program, but Dart said anecdotal evidence suggests that the kits have saved lives, including a man who was arrested again, returned to jail, and told of how a friend he had trained to use the kit had done so when he overdosed. In New York City, more than 4,000 kits have been distributed to friends and relatives of inmates at the city's jail at Rikers Island since the program there was launched in 2014.
Related: Kroger Supermarkets to Carry Naloxone Without a Prescription
Obama Administration Expands Access to Suboxone Treatment
One Upside to Opioid Overdoses: More Organ Donors
Development of a Heroin Vaccine
"The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don't start, they won't have a problem." – President Donald J. Trump
President Trump has declared the "Opioid Crisis" a nationwide public health emergency. This action will allow for "expanded access to telemedicine services" to remotely prescribe medicines for substance abuse, allow the Department of Health and Human Services to "more quickly make temporary appointments of specialists with the tools and talent needed to respond effectively to our Nation's ongoing public health emergency", allow the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants for those "displaced from the workforce" due to the Opioid Crisis, and will help people with HIV/AIDS to receive substance abuse treatment. The press release lists several actions that the Trump Administration has taken to respond to the Opioid Crisis, including the July 2017 law enforcement action against AlphaBay.
The declaration has been criticized for not requesting any funds to respond to the Crisis. The "nationwide public health emergency" declaration is also distinct from a promised "national emergency declaration", which would have freed up money from the Disaster Relief Fund to be spent on the Crisis. 14 Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would authorize $45 billion to address the Opioid Crisis. The Obama Administration called on Congress last year to pass just over $1 billion in funding for opioid treatment programs nationwide. This funding was included in the 21st Century Cures Act.
The Department of Justice has arrested and charged the founder and majority owner of Insys Therapeutics Inc., John Kapoor, along with other executives from his company. Kapoor is accused with leading a nationwide conspiracy to bribe doctors and illegally distribute the company's fentanyl spray, intended for cancer patients, so that it could be prescribed for non-cancer patients. Kapoor stepped down as CEO of Insys in January. Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb said, "Mr. Kapoor and his company stand accused of bribing doctors to overprescribe a potent opioid and committing fraud on insurance companies solely for profit. Today's arrest and charges reflect our ongoing efforts to attack the opioid crisis from all angles. We must hold the industry and its leadership accountable - just as we would the cartels or a street-level drug dealer." Six former Insys executives and managers were charged in December.