In an attempt to curb the harrowing opioid crisis in America, drugmakers have developed what they tout as “abuse-deterrent” pain-killers – opioid formulations that are designed to prevent users from injecting the drugs.
But a report published this week by the Institute of Clinical and Economic Review found that there isn’t enough evidence to claim that these re-formulated drugs effectively reduce abuse and that the price of abuse-deterrent opioids is a barrier for large-scale adoption.
The report pointed out that while many manufacturers try to produce opioids that are tougher to inject or crush compared to traditional pain-killers, the most common route of opioid abuse is simply swallowing more pills.
The institute added that there is some data suggesting that abuse-deterrent opioids can inadvertently push people who are trying to abuse the drug to more dangerous substances, like heroin.
Earlier this year, the FDA asked Endo Pharmaceuticals (NSDQ:ENDP) to withdraw its abuse-deterrent opioid, Opana ER, from the market. The agency argued that the benefits of the abuse-deterrent drug no longer outweigh the risks, after a review of postmarketing data showed that the reformulation may have encouraged users to shift from snorting Opana to injecting it by mixing it with large volumes of solvent.
The painkiller was even linked to a 2015 HIV outbreak in Indiana after people addicted to opioids shared needles while injecting Opana.
Endo pulled its product from the market in July.
The institute concluded in its report that while abuse-deterrent opioid formulations are a part of a larger strategy to fight the opioid epidemic, much more work needs to be done to better assess the drugs’ claims and justify their pricetags.
“The advent of new ADF opioids with potentially superior abuse-deterrent properties, as well as the lack of robust evidence on opioid diversion and switching to other opioids
or heroin, call for further research that will generate real-world evidence to understand the true health and economic impact of ADF opioids on the opioid abuse epidemic,” the report said.