The National Institutes of Health on Wednesday announced a joint initiative with pharmaceutical companies to spur the development of drugs to address the opioid epidemic. It will start with a series of private workshops over the next six weeks and focus on three areas:
- Developing interventions for reversing overdoses, including stronger, longer-lasting medicines to counteract synthetic opioids and, in the long-term, potentially wearable devices that sense an overdose and automatically inject naloxone.
- New treatments for opioid addiction. The NIH is investigating new medications, beyond the three currently available, repurposing and reformulating approved drugs (like lorcaserin), and even vaccines that would spur the production of antibodies against opioids and prevent them from entering the brain.
- Non-addictive treatments for chronic pain. The NIH plans to target two separate pain-signaling pathways in hopes of developing an alternative to synthetic opioid medications. They are also researching compounds that target other opioid receptors and ways to formulate drugs so they can't be snorted or injected.