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NSU Researchers Combat Opioid Abuse from a Different Angle

NSU Researchers Combat Opioid Abuse from a Different Angle

Combating a deadly epidemic of opioids, Hossein Omidian, Ph.D., and his research team at Nova Southeastern University are developing tamper-resistant tablets and abuse-deterrent technologies to prevent users from snorting or injecting prescription pain medications.

Nationwide, prescription drug abuse now claims two lives every hour from overdoses, with 6.8 million people in the U.S. abusing a prescription medication for recreational purposes.

Abusers seek to intensify the euphoric effects of opioids such as oxycodone by administering them in ways that provide faster absorption into their bloodstream. With oral pills, these include chewing before swallowing, crushing into powder in order to snort, or liquefying to inject the medication.  

“Since abusers do not follow a standard protocol and use a wide range of unconventional ways to get to the opioid, no single technology can promise full deterrence to abuse,” said Omidian, professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy. “This is why we decided to design technologies that can maximize drug entrapment when the medication is tampered for abuse. They can be used in both immediate and sustained-release formulations and at any drug concentration.”

To combat the epidemic of prescription pain medications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring manufacturers of high-potent opioids to evaluate the abuse risk, and encouraged pharmaceutical companies to develop novel medications with abuse deterrent features.

Deterrent technologies are based on certain polymers that enhance the tablet strength and build up viscosity when such tablets are crushed and mixed with aqueous liquids, Omidian said.

Today, abuse-deterrent formulations are on the market for extended-release pain medications–typically prescribed to seriously-ill patients and effective for about 8 to 12 hours. The majority of short-term pain medications, however, do not include abuse-deterrent measures.

“Abuse-deterrent medications have helped apply the brakes to what was a fast and out-of-control rise in opioid abuse,” said David Mastropietro, Ph.D., assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy and part of the NSU research team developing these technologies.

“We must be mindful that these medications can only ‘deter’ abuse and, therefore, must be used as part of a larger plan. Since the main source of misused prescriptions is often family and friends for whom they were legitimately prescribed, abuse-deterrent medications can potentially deter those seeking to abuse opioids,” Mastropietro said. 

“As a scientist who has worked in pharmaceutical industries for several years, I can attest that ADF formulations are extremely unique and challenging to develop. I’m confident that our technologies will soon be used in the next generation of ADF products,” said Rand Ahmad, a researcher and doctoral student at NSU’s College of Pharmacy.

Learn more about the epidemic of prescription pain medications.