It is 2018, and we are well on our way towards curing cancer. Yet, as we look around, we find another nightmare haunting our society that is as formidable, if not more so, as it has been for centuries. That nightmare is opioid addiction. Overcoming opioid addiction is notoriously difficult, because of the excruciating symptoms associated with the withdrawal process, during which the only aid currently available is the substitution with other opioid medicines. Fortunately, that is starting to change.
On May 16, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first non-opioid drug, Lucemyra, to help treat the withdrawal symptoms from quitting opioid addiction such as vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and agitation. During clinical trials of 866 adults, patients treated with Lucemyra reported lower severities of withdrawal symptoms compared to the placebo control set. Its side effects include low blood pressure, slow heart rate, and drowsiness. So far, Lucemyra is approved for treatment for up to two weeks, and the FDA is requiring further animal and human studies post-marketing.
With the approval of Lucemyra, the FDA and related government agencies are sending a clear signal to encourage innovations and developments of medical treatments for opioid use disorder. Despite some current debates about the prescription of opioid medicines for pain management, both sides should welcome a safer and more effective withdrawal treatment. We are hopeful that the approval of Lucemyra marks an important step in our nation-wide combat against the opioid crisis, and that new directions and possibilities of non-opioid treatments will soon follow.
FDA News Release: