Biotech firm buys UK professor’s anti-overdose nasal spray

Pharmacy Professor Daniel Wermeling at the University of Kentucky invented a nasal spray to fight heroin overdoses, and a biotech firm has bought the product, which may be on the market within six months, pending approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The device “contains a single dose of a mist form of naloxone and delivers the drug in a way similar to how Flonase is used to treat allergies,” Mary Meehan reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The product is on a fast track for approval because of the rising rates of heroin overdoses across the country, said UK Provost Tim Tracy, former dean of UK’s pharmacy school. Wermeling doesn’t know exactly when his product will be on the market, but he said the FDA approved another fast-track, anti-overdose therapy after only 14 weeks. The fast-track program speeds development of drugs to treat serious or life-threatening conditions. “Last year, 233 people [in Kentucky] died with heroin in their systems, according to the state medical examiner’s office,” Meehan notes.

Wermeling has been developing the project at UK since 2009 with the help of more than $5 million in federal and state tax dollars. Tracy said Indivior PLC, the spinoff pharmaceutical company that bought the nasal spray, will be able to manufacture, market and distribute the product. Right now, emergency responders and hospitals must draw naloxone, branded as Narcan, in a syringe to provide the correct dose.

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