Thursday, April 15, 2010

A new Opiate designed to decrease drug abuse

King pharmaceuticals have just released a new painkiller called Embeda. It is a schedule 2 drug containing morphine that is designed to slowly release in the body, similar to OxyContin. The morphine is in tiny little beads with a slow release coating.

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The difference with Embeda is that each little bead of Embeda also has Naltrexone inside a special coating that can’t dissolve in the body. So if a patient takes it as prescribed, they will get the Morphine and no Naltrexone. But if they crush it and inject it they will get the morphine and they will also get the Naltrexone. This could certainly spoil your high!

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It is a bit scary actually, because the Naltrexone will not only block the Morphine high, but it may be a high enough dose to also push them into complete withdrawal. The severe withdrawal may be dangerous and may last for over 24 hours. We have certainly seen a lot of patients who have taken Naltrexone before they are fully detoxified and it is not a pretty sight.

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So, will this cut down on drug abuse? It may be some help but there are a couple of points to remember. Firstly, patients can simply take the medicine orally and get the full morphine effect. They don’t have to inject it to get a buzz – especially if they take double or triple doses. Secondly, most addicts are pretty resourceful. It may be possible to break down the first barrier to release the Morphine and leave the other barrier intact – keeping the Naltrexone locked away.

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One thing is sure, we will know in a few months how it fits into teh picture both in clinical medicine and on the street.

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Dr Peter Coleman

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