New Antidote For Heroin Overdoses Could Soon Be Carried By Cops And Carers

Every year, 16,000 people die from opioid-related overdoses, according to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. With this in mind, the FDA's decision to approve a heroin overdose antidote could be groundbreaking. The antidote comes in a device called Evzio, which injects a case-specific dose of naloxone into the person suffering from the heroin overdose. Even more importantly, Evzio can be kept in a medicine cabinet at home.

Since the device — also known as a "hand-held autoinjector" — delivers just the exact amount of naloxone necessary to counteract the dose, anyone (a family member, a caregiver) can easily follow the instructions to give the overdose victim a quick dose of naloxone, a drug typically only used in ambulances or in emergency rooms.

That's not to say that Evzio is a one-size-fits-all antidote: the FDA has emphasized that Evzio shouldn't replace professional medical care. The device also can cause several side effects in some cases, including severe withdrawal in the heroin addict, which can lead to sweating and vomiting, or cardiac arrest and seizures in worst-case scenarios.

But even so, it appears Evzio will provide fast-moving treatment for overdose victims in times when an ambulance is not available or the victim is far from the emergency room. The antidote works by breaking down the opiate molecules that stick to a victim's brain during an overdose — molecules that can make the victim stop breathing.

The drug was initially going to be reviewed on June 20 of this year, but apparently the FDA decided to approve it two months ahead of time. As Hamburg told the Associated Press:

While the larger goal is to reduce the need for products like these by preventing opioid addiction and abuse, they are extremely important innovations that will help to save lives.

Even better news: the police may also start to carry Evzio very soon. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was pushing for a program that would allow cops to be equipped with Evzio, so when they're out on the job, they can save victims' lives. As of February this year, State Senator Kemp Hannon and Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz also proposed a bill that would allow laypeople access to Evzio.

While the FDA has certainly approved Evzio, it appears that Evzio will still need the approval of some state legislatures before the average person can have access to it.