The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is pleased to announce that lofexidine, the first medication for use in reducing symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal in adults, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Lofexidine, an oral tablet, is designed to manage the symptoms patients often experience during opioid discontinuation. Opioid withdrawal symptoms, which can begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken, may include aches and pains, muscle spasms/twitching, stomach cramps, muscular tension, heart pounding, insomnia/problems sleeping, feelings of coldness, runny eyes, yawning, and feeling sick, among others. The product will be marketed under the brand name LUCEMYRATM.
In 2016, more than 42,000 people died from an opioid overdose, or approximately 115 people per day. Although effective treatments exist for opioid addiction, painful and difficult withdrawal is one of the reasons treatment fails, and relapse occurs. By alleviating symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal, LUCEMYRA could help patients complete their discontinuation of opioids and facilitate successful treatment. To date, no other medications have been approved to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms.
LUCEMYRA will be marketed by US WorldMeds, a specialty pharmaceutical company that acquired a license for lofexidine from Britannia Pharmaceuticals in 2003. NIDA provided funding to US WorldMeds to support clinical trials to document the clinical pharmacokinetics of lofexidine and to test medical safety and efficacy of the medication, as compared to a placebo, among patients undergoing medically supervised opioid discontinuation. LUCEMYRA is expected to be commercially available in the United States in August 2018.
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