Patients suffering from opioid addiction may soon be given the first non-opioid drug to help them handle withdrawal symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved use of the drug Lucemyra, saying it gives doctors a new option for treating the side effects of withdrawal.
"We know that the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be one of the biggest barriers for patients seeking help and ultimately overcoming addiction," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. "The fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms often prevents those suffering from opioid addiction from seeking help."
Those symptoms include anxiety, muscle aches, sweating, vomiting and a craving for drugs.
Opioids are synthetic painkillers generally prescribed by doctors or used in hospital emergency rooms. But they can become highly addictive, even after the original injury has healed.
Doctors usually treat addiction by substituting one opioid for another, then gradually reducing use or transitioning to other drugs.
Part of long-term plan
Lucemyra is an oral treatment and can be used for only 14 days. The FDA said Lucemyra is not a treatment for opioid addiction but can be used as part of a long-term plan to fight the problem.
Last year, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.
Despite public pronouncements on the need to cut back on opioid prescriptions and to punish drug dealers more harshly, administration critics said they have yet to see any concrete plans from the White House to battle the crisis.