This article is has been updated since it was originally posted.
NSU researchers are waiting to receive licensing for their development of tamper-proof pill technology to help deter opioid addiction and abuse.
The technology consists of different prototype tablets with deterrent properties. The research is led by Hossein Omidian, who has a doctorate in polymer science, and his research team at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Pharmacy. Rand Ahmad is a Ph.D. student that is part of the research team.
“The molecules and ingredients we are dealing with are already used pharmaceutically, so we are looking for new applications for these ingredients to deter drug abuse,” said Ahmad.
The two main types of tablets that the researchers are working on are either crush or extraction resistant. One of the prototype tablets that Ahmad is working on is an extraction resistant tablet.
“What I am doing is developing a formulation that helps in deterring drug abuse by injection… It’s not [as easy for the drugs to] exert it’s euphoric or like the high-effect that abusers are looking for [with this technology],” said Ahmad.
Scott Kjelson, who has a doctorate in pharmacy, is the director of student transitions and assistant professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy. While he is not a part of the research team, he is a public health advocate for educating people about the opioid epidemic.
A person’s reaction to the opioid will vary depending on how they take it. When the patient snorts or injects the drug, they can receive a high faster because the drug will bypass the first phase of metabolism.
“If you, for instance, put something under your tongue, put something like a suppository or you put something straight into the bloodline, you don’t have to go through the liver. And a lot of the drugs that we take or foods that we take are metabolized through the liver first and then into a second phase of metabolism,” said Kjelson.
Aside from helping deter addiction and abuse, Kjelson said the technology will also generate improved communications and education within the healthcare field.
“The tablets with the deterrent properties within them are going to give opportunities for providers to provide better education without being direct to the patient and accusing them … It is an indirect way of handling addiction, but it also creates trust within the system of health care because now we are able to provide resources and [patients] know more about the drugs,” said Kjelson.
Kjelson said that the opioid epidemic stands out from other substances being abused in the United States due to the assumption that pills are safe and not addictive.
“When you get a pill, if it’s from a doctor, many people think that it is safe, and don’t rank it as a harmful drug. When you have lack of education and you don’t profile something as a high risk, [you think] it’s safe,” said Kjelson.
Once the team receives licensing for the tablet, pharmaceutical studies will be conducted for researchers to learn more about the design, such as abuse potential.
Aside from this breakthrough, NSU is working on other ways to help curve the opioid epidemic. The College of Pharmacy is also considering how opioids affect genetics. In addition, Kjelson will act as moderator for the United Stance symposium regarding the opioid epidemic on Nov. 2. This event is to help encourage conversation and education about the opioid epidemic.
Kjelson said it’s important to know that this tamper-proof technology is only one piece to solving the opioid epidemic and more solutions can be generated with a hands-on approach.
“We need the system to progress. We need tons more communication. We need engagement from the community and it needs to be an all hands-on-deck approach,” said Kjelson. “So, this is a very important matter with the deterrent process, but this is a piece of a big puzzle. And it’s going to take us all to be on this moving forward. And that includes us understanding the entire structure of this.”
More information on this breakthrough can be found at nova.edu/research/areas/drug-abuse/index.html.