In an effort to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic, several companies, like Purdue Pharma, have created reformulated opioids. These abuse-deterrent painkillers make it more difficult to snort, smoke or inject the drug—some estimates show that revised OxyContin has curtailed abuse by 40%. Well done, Purdue. Buuuuuut… a new study from the University of Pennsylvania and Rand Corp. shows that since the reformulation of OxyContin, heroin overdoses have surged and the increase in deaths can be attributed directly to the new-and-improved Oxys. One finding shows the number of heroin deaths tripled from 3,000 in 2010 (when reformulated Oxy was introduced) to 10,500 in 2014. InsightCity’s analysis? Addiction is painful and destructive, and the healthcare ecosystem plays too large of a role in the problem.
Modafinil, a drug used to treat sleepiness caused by narcolepsy and sleep apnea, has a fan base among grinders who recreationally use smart drugs to “upgrade themselves.” Now, an official study confirms that modafinil reduces impulsive behavior stemming from a variety of conditions, from food addiction to schizophrenia, ADHD and alcohol dependence. Biohackers report a crisp, soft clarity and concentration beyond one’s imagination when taking the drug, but its impact on impulsivity means it could be a better treatment for obesity driven by food addiction, drug and alcohol dependence, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety than the meds currently on the market. Turns out that 15x uptick in patients over the past decade for off-label use may have been more than just recreational.
The city of Chicago is getting even more serious about snuffing out an epidemic that has claimed the lives of hundreds of Chicagoans so far. In a continued effort to stem opioid addiction, the city may soon require pharmaceutical sales reps to carry special licenses in order to pitch medications. “Oh just a piece of plastic to flash around, not a big deal!” the young unsuspecting sales rep might muse. Um, no. License requirements call for representatives to report back to the city on several measures including how many doctors they contact and whether these doctors receive payout. Patients and doctors can also report unethical behavior. Add this to Chicago’s record of opioid crackdowns, which includes a lawsuit filed against several drug makers’ misleading opioid marketing in June of 2014.
You know what sounds crazy? The FDA’s “2016 Naloxone App Competition.” The idea, to develop a location-based, social search service application (a la Tinder) that connects opioid users and first responders to someone nearby with a dose of naloxone, was presented as a challenge by the FDA to programmers, public health advocates, researchers and entrepreneurs in an attempt to slow the death rate from opioid overdoses. Naloxone is a prescription drug able to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when administered quickly enough; the FDA believes this antidote is currently in too few hands to save all who might benefit. But an FDA sanctioned app that unites drug users with drugs? Just like opioids and smartphones, this app seems ripe for abuse.
A new opioid drug might be the cause for celebration in the midst of America’s painkiller epidemic. Researchers studied compound BU08028 in non-human primates to assess its effects on pain relief. The results? Well first and foremost, it eliminates pain just as well as other opioids like morphine. But unlike other opioids, it does it without adverse effects on primates’ respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Most importantly, it does so without being addictive. When researchers allowed monkeys to self-administer pain medication they found the monkeys didn’t use BU08028 more than the control dose of saline. Seems like the only thing we have to worry about in this experiment is a revenge plot from the monkeys who had their tails dipped in hot water.
In an attempt to control the ever-increasing threat of opioid addiction in the United States, Pfizer and the city of Chicago have paired up to set a precedent for responsible opioid marketing and promotion. The pharmaceutical giant was fully on board with a code of conduct drawn up by Chicago, requiring them to disclose addiction risks and efficacy limitations in promotional material for their opioid brands. Sketchy opioid promotion has recently caught fire recently, with Purdue Pharma (the makers of OxyContin) taking the most heat; the company ultimately plead guilty to charges of misleading the public about OxyContin’s addictive properties. With a vast number of pharma companies producing opioid pain-killers, the hope is that the Chicago-Pfizer agreement will spearhead an industry-wide shift towards ethical advertising.