Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid that has been traced to countless accidental overdose deaths in the country. In recent years, more and more illegal street-level drug distributors are lacing opioids like heroin with fentanyl, unbeknownst to the addicts buying from them. The idea is they can get someone addicted to their product much faster due to its increased potency. However, just three milligrams of fentanyl can kill an adult.
In order to combat the opioid epidemic and start reducing the number of opioid deaths in the country each year, it is crucial for people to be able to detect fentanyl in their substances and avoid it. BTNX, Inc., a company headquartered in Ontario, Canada, has recently developed an inexpensive, fast, and easy-to-use test strip to detect fentanyl hiding among other opioids. People can dunk the test strip into water after mixing it with a scant amount of the substances and check in a few minutes to see if fentanyl was detected.
While the one-dollar-a-strip test seems promising, it has not yet gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Without the administration’s approval, which is notorious for taking years to gain, the test strips will remain difficult, if not impossible, to obtain in the states.
Why Won’t the FDA Approve the Test Strips?
There are concerns the FDA will never approve the fentanyl-detecting strips. Why would they resist something that could potentially save lives from accidental overdoses triggered by hidden fentanyl?
The first reason is the FDA may want to conduct its own tests to confirm the reported accuracy of the test strips. Additional testing or red tape might come up since the products are manufactured out of country. The second concern, though, is the legality of how the test strips could or would be used. They would need to be advertised as a way to detect fentanyl in illegal drugs, which could be misconstrued as an endorsement to use illegal drugs. The FDA also does not want to possibly create an idea that opioids without fentanyl are “safe” or “safer”, as they are still extremely dangerous when abused.
Yet alternative methods to get the strips out to the American public are out there. California has already begun distributing the strips for free at needle exchange centers. By making it the responsibility of the state to hand out the strips, rather than requiring them to be sold at pharmacies, there is a legal gray area that sidesteps the FDA’s lack of approval.
Fentanyl is a Hidden Killer
People often believe drug addicts do not have any consideration for their own wellbeing. For the most part, this is entirely untrue. They are people who are struggling with a substance abuse problem but they do not want to actually harm themselves or anyone else.
With this said, opioid users who inadvertently use fentanyl would most likely not if they knew they could avoid it. The strips can help them see the danger in front of them and decide not to take that dose, which could lead to their eventual rehabilitation. Help needs to come sooner than later, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, fentanyl-laced opioids cause more than 50% of nonfatal overdoses and more than 95% of fatal overdoses.
(To learn more about the test strips and the regulatory trouble they are encountering, click here to view a full article from The Bellingham Herald.)
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