Prince, Naloxone, and Buprenorphine

Prince’s death focused attention on the short duration of action of naloxone in reversing overdose with opiates that may still pose a threat after the initial dose of the opiate antagonist wears off. We need more study of the life-saving potential of buprenorphine, not just used for maintenance, but to reverse overdose, especially in the absence of naloxone. Buprenorphine, a partial agonist, also displaces most opiates from their receptors, reversing their effects. If research proves it effective in treating opiate overdose its longer duration of action could save lives.

I suspect that addicts and even drug dealers, people most likely to witness an overdose, will more likely have buprenorphine at hand rather than naloxone. Perhaps they could administer the drug sublingually even to an unconscious victim if properly instructed in its safe use.

Buprenorphine’s approval for treatment of pain and maintenance treatment of addiction does not cover the use described above.

How many like Prince will die as we continue to delay exploration of this potentially life-saving use?

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