Regions Central Virginia

Two companies creating treatments for drug overdoses

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Evzio, a handheld auto-injector for treating opioid
overdoses, became available by prescription in July.

Two Richmond-area companies are developing products to treat drug overdoses.

In April, Richmond-based Kaléo received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Evzio, a hand-held auto-injector for opioid overdoses. Opioids include pain medicine like hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine and heroin.

Kaléo, formerly known as Intelliject Inc., says sales of the product began in July.

Meanwhile, Chesterfield-based Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. is working with Lexington, Kentucky-based AntiOp Inc. to develop a nasal spray to treat opioid overdoses.

Both products use naloxone, a drug usually administered with a syringe to counterattack an overdose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says deaths from drug overdoses have been rising steadily during the past two decades. Of the 22,810 deaths related to pharmaceutical overdoses in 2011, 74  percent involved opioid pain relievers. An opioid overdose is characterized by decreased breathing or heart rates, or loss of consciousness.

AntiOp’s nasal product is inserted into the nose of an overdose victim to administer naloxone. Reckitt Benckiser says it intends to seek regulatory approval for the product.

The company, which has more than 600 employees around the world, currently sells Suboxone film in the United States, a dissolvable film which is placed under the tongue to help reduce opioid withdrawals and cravings. 

Kaléo’s Evzio is available by prescription to patients, family members or caregivers for suspected opioid overdose. Kaléo worked with patients, family members and caregivers to develop a user-friendly product that requires little to no training to administer, says Spencer Williamson, the company’s CEO.

In April, Kaléo had about 25 full-time employees in Richmond, a number that was expected to grow significantly. Its other product is also an auto-injector, but it’s used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. Williamson says other life-saving products are in the pipeline.

“We are very focused about building an exciting pharma company,” Williamson says. “Our headquarters are going to stay here in Richmond, and we think we’ve got a really, really exciting and unique value proposition in the company that we’re building.”

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