Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Potential Lifesaver in Heroin Epidemic

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Potential Lifesaver in Heroin Epidemic

Article excerpt

An injection device that can be used at home to counteract heroin and painkiller overdoses was approved Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration in a move officials say may help stem the growing number of opiate-related deaths in New Jersey and across the United States.

The device, called Evzio, injects a single dose of the drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, an opioid antidote that has for decades been administered by syringe in ambulances and emergency rooms. Evzio's approval comes as several states, including New Jersey, have broadened access to naloxone to confront a surge in overdoses.

At the same time, some worry that easy access to an antidote could lead drug users to take greater risks knowing that there's a safety net.

Every police department in Bergen County -- which has seen at least 13 heroin overdose deaths this year -- will soon be supplied with naloxone kits and training, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said Thursday. Molinelli said he was not sure which naloxone product he would use, but was leaning toward an injection device.

On Wednesday, Governor Christie announced a pilot program authorizing police officers in Ocean and Monmouth counties to carry Narcan kits.

"We think greater availability of immediate treatments like naloxone are important as New Jersey confronts this crisis in heroin and opioid overdoses," said Aline Holmes, a registered nurse and senior vice president for clinical affairs at the New Jersey Hospital Association.

In 2012, New Jersey saw more than 800 opioid-overdose deaths. Many of those involved prescription painkillers, and half involved heroin.

More than 16,000 people in the U.S. die each year from opioid- related overdoses, a fourfold increase in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Evzio is produced by Kaleo Inc., a Virginia-based company that specializes in treatment of allergic reactions. The device -- the first of its kind approved for non-hospital settings -- is similar to the EpiPen, an injection device used to counteract anaphylactic shock, clinicians said.

Once Evzio is turned on, the device provides verbal instructions on how to inject it into the muscle or under the skin.

At least 17 states allow naloxone to be distributed to the public. Some of those states allow for third parties, such as a family member or friend of an intravenous drug user, to be prescribed it.

New Jersey's Overdose Protection Act, signed into law last May, grants legal immunity to anybody who uses naloxone to treat an overdose.

On Thursday, New York State announced that every state and local law enforcement officer would carry syringes and inhalers of naloxone.

An estimated 1,100 naloxone kits will be dispensed to every police department in Bergen County, with training beginning through The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood as soon as next month, Molinelli said. …

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