- The Scripps Research Institute reported successful preclinical results with a vaccine that prevents the synthetic opioid fentanyl from reaching the brain, a potential weapon in the fight to reduce opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
- While the vaccine protects against all fentanyl derivatives, it doesn’t cross-react with oxycodone and other drug classes, meaning people needing pain medication would still have options.
- Fentanyl use is on the rise as drug dealers have created variants to mix with or substitute for heroin.
The vaccine cocktail works by tricking the immune system into mistaking a molecule in the vaccine for fentanyl, thus prompting the production of antibodies, Scripps said in a release. Mice received three doses of the vaccine, each two weeks apart. Afterwards, their immune systems were able to neutralize fentanyl for months.
Further, when the vaccinated mice were given fentanyl, they didn’t appear to experience a high. It took a 30-fold increase it the normal dose of fentanyl for vaccinated mice to react to the opioid. The study was described in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
The number of opioid-related overdose deaths rose by 200% from 2000 to 2014, fueled largely by easy access to fentanyl and variants of the drug, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Next, the researchers hope to design a vaccine that would target both fentanyl and heroin.