FDA approves drug to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms

FDA approves drug to help with opioid withdrawal symptoms
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday approved a medication to lessen the side effects of opioid withdrawal in an effort to help mitigate what Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called “one of the biggest barriers” for those deciding to seek treatment.

“The fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms often prevents those suffering from opioid addiction from seeking help,” Gottlieb said in a press release. “And those who seek assistance may relapse due to continued withdrawal symptoms.

The drug Lofexidine, marketed as Lucemyra, will be the first nonopioid treatment for managing withdrawal symptoms. For opioids, withdrawal symptoms can include runny noses, sleep problems, sweating, nausea, vomiting and more.

The newly approved drug isn’t a medication for opioid addiction, but is seen as a step toward helping some people begin medication-assisted treatment, seen as the gold standard of addiction care.

One form of medication-assisted treatment requires that a person has already gone through detox, which is when withdrawal symptoms occur.

The federal government and Congress are grappling with how to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic, which has shown no signs of slowing down and is contributing to an estimated 115 American deaths per day. Expanding access to treatment is viewed as an important step to curbing the country’s increasing overdose rates.