Fentanyl vaccine dubbed a ‘game changer’ | high times
Could a Fentanyl Vaccine Save Thousands of Lives? A recent animal study published in the journal Pharmaceutics shows that a fentanyl vaccine was able to stop the drug from entering the brains of rats — making it a worthy candidate for human trials and eventually something available to the public and can save lives.
Researchers gave rats three doses of the vaccine or immunization three weeks apart, and another group of rats received a placebo. To see if the drug was working, they tested the immunized rats’ pain responses by heating their tails for up to 10 seconds and seeing how long it took them to withdraw.
Vaccination significantly reduced fentanyl entry into the brain, and anti-fentanyl antibodies targeted fentanyl without cross-reactions with other opioids.
“We believe these findings could have a significant impact on a very serious problem that has plagued society for years — opioid abuse,” study lead author Colin Haile told the University of Houston (UH) News. . “Our vaccine is able to produce anti-fentanyl antibodies, which bind to the fentanyl you take and prevent it from getting to the brain, allowing it to be excreted from the body through the kidneys. So the individual won’t feel the euphoric effects and can ‘get back on the car’ to sobriety.”
Haile is an associate professor of psychology at UH and the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics (TIMES) and a founding member of the UH Drug Discovery Institute.
“The anti-fentanyl antibodies were specific for fentanyl and a fentanyl derivative and did not show any cross-reactions with other opioids such as morphine. That means a vaccinated person could continue to be treated with other opioids for pain relief,” Haile said.
Now more than 150 people die every day from an overdose of synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. As little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl, or the size of two grains of rice, can be deadly, depending on the size of the person.
“These pre-clinical results show the effectiveness in neutralization [fentanyl]effects and warrant further development as a potential therapeutic for OUD and overdose in humans,” the researchers wrote in the study. “We expect minimal side effects in clinical trials as the two components of our formulation (CRM and dmLT) are already included in other vaccines on the market or have been tested in multiple human clinical trials and shown to be safe and effective. In addition, the effective dose of dmLT used in human clinical trials is comparable to the dose used in the present study. Since low vaccine concentrations provide sufficient anti-[fentanyl] antibody levels, we expect that there will be no adverse events when this vaccine is tested in humans.”
The vaccine resulted in no observed adverse effects in the immunized rats.
Researchers plan to begin manufacturing a clinical-grade vaccine in the coming months, with human clinical trials planned soon.
Efforts are being made to curb the deadly effects of fentanyl on America. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last September announced the results of a widespread drug operation, data spanning May through September, resulting in over 10 million fentanyl pills and allegedly 36 million lethal doses of the drug.
The DEA says fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing this nation. “In 2021, a record number of Americans — 107,622 — died from drug poisoning or overdose,” the DEA press release said. “Sixty-six percent of these deaths are attributable to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”