Local health leaders concerned after FDA approves powerful opioid

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – The Federal Drug Administration has approved a new, very powerful opioid drug. Now, some who work closely with opioid addiction and overdoses have concerns.

It’s called Dsuvia. It’s an opioid drug that is 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times stronger than fetanyl, which is the opioid commonly seen in overdoses today.

“We are in the midst of an opioid crisis and Lafayette is not immune to that,” said Darrell Clase, Director of the Tippecanoe Emergency Ambulance Service.

When Jason Padgett from Home With Hope was asked if he thought the FDA will be able to keep Dsuvia out of the hands of those who would use it negatively, his answer was clear.

“No, I don’t. Ever,” he said.

“We are consistently, one to three times a day, called to overdoses here in Tippecanoe County,” said Clase.

Padgett works to help those who battle this disease through the recovery process.

“I just got a call on my way here that one of my friends overdosed and died last night and that makes three in the Lafayette area in the past 72 hours,” he said.

So naturally, both are concerned about the direction Dsuvia will take.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a statement earlier this week trying to address some of the concerns about the drug. He said it will be used to help our military.

“The FDA has made it a high priority to make sure our soldiers have access to treatments that meet the unique needs of the battlefield,” said his statement in part.

But giving wounded soldiers could lead to a slippery slope. According to a study in 2014, 15% of veterans regularly used opioids, a rate that is much higher than the general population.

Even though Padgett said this drug can get in the wrong hands, he still sees the other side of the coin.

“As a United States Marine, when I can see Dsuvia will be used to help those on the battlefield, I have to say there is some merit to that,” he said. “Do we punish the rest of the world because people are looking for a chemical escape?”

He said that it’s time that people look at addiction as a societal issue.

“People need housing, they need to be able to support their families, have a purpose in life,” he said. “Until we start teaching people how to parent, how to address their emotional and psychological issues. This is how we fight addiction.”

Clase is the one answering all the calls for help and administering recovery drugs such as Narcan and Naloxone.

“If a medicine of this sort was to hit the streets it would pose significant challenges for the EMS world,” he said.

He said it is unknown if Narcan and Naloxone would be able to revive someone who had overdosed on Dsuvia.

“We already have a limited amount of resources to treat those people and adding something to the mix I just think continues to create more challenges,” he said. “If we could control what is already happening, it would be a different story, but until that happens, I feel that we are fighting a losing battle.”

He said if Dsuvia should become more widespread, he and his team will be as proactive as possible.

“It is something we would seek training on,” he said. “Hopefully that would never happen since it’s only supposed to be used in a healthcare setting, but we just never know what can happen.”

Padgett said there are lots of things happening in Lafayette to create a positive recover environment.

“The Opioid Task Force is working towards possibly creating a recovery community organization, Workforce One is helping people get jobs at Caterpillar and SIA,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things that change people’s lives.”

They recently got a grant to form a quick response team, comprised of one EMS person and one certified addictions peer recovery person who will go out and talk to anybody within 72 hours who has overdosed and opted to not seek further help.

Padgett said that team should be up and running by early December.