The new formulation is reportedly five times stronger than Narcan and will last longer.
A stronger formulation of Narcan (naloxone) nasal spray, the opioid overdose antidote, is in the works, FOX Business reports. There’s a need for a stronger antidote, its developers say, to counter the rising use of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever said to be 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Though it is a pharmaceutical drug, illicitly-made fentanyl is said to have fueled rising rates of drug overdose deaths in the United States.
Narcan nasal spray, which reverses opioid overdose, hit the market in early 2016 after receiving fast-track designation by the Food and Drug Administration. Now first responders, health workers, and laypeople across the U.S. are equipped with Narcan—but in some cases, the otherwise life-saving drug is not enough.
“Narcan is not the 100% fail safe that people may think it is, it does not always work,” warned police officials in West Fargo, North Dakota, responding to the emergence of acryl fentanyl, a newer, stronger fentanyl analog, last year. These illicitly-made opioids may require multiple doses of Narcan.
Roger Crystal, the creator of Narcan and CEO of Opiant Pharmaceuticals, is now working with the government to create a new opioid overdose antidote that will match the strength of increasingly potent fentanyl analogs.
The new formulation, Nasal Nalmefene, will not only be stronger but will last longer. “The reason we think it could have advantages is because nalmefene is a drug itself [and] is stronger than naloxone. It’s five time stronger and it lasts longer,” Crystal told FOX Business.
According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl accounts for a significant portion of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. In 2016, opioids (prescription and illicit) accounted for 42,249 deaths out of total 63,632 drug overdose deaths in the U.S.
The CDC also reported that “over half of people in 10 states who died of opioid overdoses during the second half of 2016 tested positive for fentanyl.”
Crystal, who is working with the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, said they are aiming for FDA approval of Nasal Nalmefene by 2020.
“Compounds like fentanyl, carfentanil and other synthetic opioids act for longer periods of time. The concern is that naloxone’s half-life doesn’t provide sufficient cover to prevailing amounts of fentanyl in the blood,” said Crystal in a past interview.
Learn how to administer naloxone: How to Reverse an Opioid Overdose with Naloxone.