Abuse-Deterrent Opioid Formulations: A Key Ingredient in the Recipe to Prevent Opioid Disasters?

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is encouraging the innovation of long-acting opioid formulations that are manipulation-resistant. The purpose of this commentary is to assess the benefits and limitations of abuse-deterrent opioid formulations (ADFs) and discuss their role in mitigating the current opioid epidemic. ADFs have been created with chemical properties that make it difficult for people who non-medically use prescription drugs to crush and dissolve opioid tablets, as well as by combining opioids with antagonists such as naloxone or naltrexone, which are released only when the dosage form has been manipulated or the drug is taken by a non-intended route. Despite these and other technologies, consensus regarding the effectiveness of these formulations in preventing non-medical use is lacking given the difficulty in obtaining post-marketing data. Researchers also question if the creation of abuse-deterrent drugs will have a positive effect on those struggling with a severe opioid-use disorder, fearing that current opioid users will simply find a new – perhaps more dangerous – drug of choice. Abuse-deterrent opioids are still opioids, and although they may make manipulation more difficult than non-ADF formulations, they are not “abuse proof.” The introduction of ADFs could provide a false sense of security among prescribers and dispensers, and we fear that ADFs may have a minimal impact on non-medical use of prescription opioids. Further epidemiological studies will be required to determine the large-scale impact of abuse-deterrent opioids in preventing opioid use disorder and its downstream consequences.