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September 09, 2015

Delco pharma company launches abuse-resistant painkiller

Opioid pill will cause burning sensation if snorted

Drugs Painkillers
Manufacturing pills Contributed Art/Egalet

Drugs being manufactured by Egalet, a Wayne-based pharmaceutical company.

In the midst of a continuing epidemic of drug overdose deaths, a Delaware County pharmaceutical company announced on Wednesday that it is launching a painkiller designed to resist abuse.

The drug, Oxaydo, works by causing a burning sensation if a user attempts to snort it.

It contains oxycodone, an opioid found in many painkillers – making it the first-ever immediate-release oxycodone drug to be made abuse-resistant, according to the drug makers.  

“Oxycodone is one of the most frequently abused opioids, and with the preferences of a lot of abusers to snort oxycodone, it's important we have ways to avoid that route of abuse,” said spokesperson Blair Clark-Schoeb.

It is the second product to be marketed by Wayne-based Egalet, which went public last year and has four more abuse-resistant painkillers in its developer pipeline.

A clinical study of Oxaydo found that 30 percent of recreational users who snorted the drug said they wouldn’t use it again. While the percentage is low, it’s six times the number of users who said they wouldn’t try snorting a non-resistant tablet again.

Oxaydo’s launch comes at a time of increased public awareness of the toll of drug abuse. As this chart shows, there are now more drug overdose deaths in the U.S. each year than car accident deaths.

A report in May from the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association found that seven people in Pennsylvania die from drugs every day. One-third of drug overdose deaths last year involved heroin, and one-fourth involved opioids overall.

Efforts to reformulate painkillers have helped stop prescription drug abuse in the past but can sometimes lead addicts to pick up other drugs as substitutes.

For example, one study showed that fewer drug addicts abused OxyContin after it was made harder to crush and snort. 

Unfortunately, that same study showed that many of those users switched to heroin instead.

What’s more, Clark-Schoeb said that after extended-release painkillers like OxyContin were reformed, there was a huge increase in the abuse of immediate-release painkillers as a substitute, hence the need for a product like Oxaydo.

"The FDA has said that it's important to do immediate-release therapies as well," she said.

Oxaydo contains oxycodone, a common painkiller. (Contributed Art/Egalet)

Drug companies focused on extended-release pills first because they were more ripe for abuse. While they are designed to release medication gradually, if tampered with, they can release a huge hit of it all at once.

Egalet is working on four extended-release morphine and oxycodone painkillers that are all abuse-resistant. Two of those drugs are already in the late stages of clinical trials.

"We want to make sure the products that are out there will deter the potential for abuse," said Clark-Schoeb.