Reports of teenagers’ pharm parties, Rush Limbaugh’s OxyContin addiction, and the questions surrounding Michael Jackson’s death have kept prescription-drug abuse in the public eye. By requiring manufacturers of opioid drugs to create risk evaluation and mitigation strategies, the US Food and Drug Administration is seeking to reduce opportunities for drug abuse while keeping the therapies available to patients who need them. One pharmaceutical company suggests that, in addition to regulatory solutions, drug abuse could be curbed using drug-delivery strategies.
When a patient chews, crushes, or dissolves immediate-release opioid formulations, it exposes the entire active-ingredient dose and enables the drug to be injected or snorted. Taking oxycodone this way produces a high concentration of the drug in the blood quickly and increases the chance that the patient will abuse the drug or become addicted.
Atlantic Pharmaceuticals (Atlanta, GA) wants to use its Smart/Script oral delivery technology to deter oxycodone abuse. Loading a drug into the Smart/Script technology renders it noncrushable and nonextractable in common injectable solutions, according to the company’s website. Smart/Script protects the drug until it reaches the gastrointestinal system, where it is released.
I think Atlantic is on the right track. Tracking drug shipments, restricting medicines’ availability, and other regulatory approaches could certainly help reduce drug abuse. But using formulation or drug-delivery techniques seems like a way of nipping drug abuse in the bud. A problem of this magnitude calls for a multipronged approach, and it encourages me to see that pharmaceutical companies are using ingenuity to develop creative solutions.