One of the concerns about extended-release opioids like OxyContin is that they are easily abused. Addicts often crush or chew them, which results in dangerously large amounts of the drug being released all at once rather than over an extended period of time. In an effort to counteract this problem, King Pharmaceuticals has developed, and the FDA has approved, EMBEDA, an extended-release pain reliever containing morphine sulfate and naltrexone hydrochloride for the treatment of moderate to severe pain.
Naltrexone is a drug used to treat opioid and alcohol addiction. It works by attaching itself to the body's opioid receptors and blocking the effects of the narcotics. You may be wondering why a drug that blocks opioids would be included in an opioid medication. The key is in the design of the medication. EMBEDA contains extended-release morphine pellets, each with an inner core of naltrexone. As long as the medication is taken properly, the naltrexone passes through the body with no clinical effect. However, if the pills are crushed or chewed, the naltrexone is released and absorbed along with the morphine, which effectively reverses the effects of the morphine.
I think that EMBEDA is a good first step in helping to ease doctors' minds and make them a little less hesitant about prescribing opioids when needed for chronic pain. King Pharmaceuticals says they are working on developing a number of other short- and long-acting opioids with similar technologies designed to provide pain relief without the potential for abuse. I trust other companies will follow suit. It would be a tremendous service to the chronic pain community.
EMBEDA is expected to be available sometime in September.
Published On: August 27, 2009