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US Approves Heroin/Painkiller Overdose Treatment

Update Date: Apr 04, 2014 12:07 PM EDT

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a device called Evzio that reverses the effects of overdoses from opioids, including heroin and other prescription painkillers.

Evzio is an injection-style device that administers the drug naloxone. Previously naloxone was used in ambulances and emergency room to treat opioid overdoses and now Evzio will allow caregivers, family members and other non-medical personnel to keep naloxone on hand. Though the device will require a prescription.

The approved device will be injected into the muscle under the skin and upon being turned on it will pass on verbal instructions to tell the user how to deliver the medication. 

The reason of naloxone's effectiveness is that it reverses the slowed-down breathing which is the main cause of death during an overdose. 

Even if someone is not overdosing from opioid, the dose available in the Evzio wont hurt them. 

FDA clarified in a statement that Evzio is not a substitute for immediate medical care though.

Calling Evzio an "extremely important innovations that will help to save lives," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, in a statement, added that the broader aim remains to reduce opioid abuse.

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 people died in 2010 due to opioid-related overdoses. These were driven largely by prescription drug overdoses. 

"There are risks and benefits to all medications," said Eric Strain, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Research, according to DFP. But, he added, "in the big scheme of things, this is probably a valuable tool, especially if it's used and provided in the context of improving access to treatment."

"You can't stop people from doing it, but you might as well give them a clean needle," said Robert Shesser, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University. 

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