Fentanyl vaccine poised to be ‘game changer’ in fight against addiction
HOUSTON – The end of the fentanyl crisis may be in sight, thanks to a team of researchers in Texas who claim to have successfully developed a vaccine that could be a “game changer” in the treatment of addiction.
A team led by the University of Houston has developed what they say is a fentanyl vaccine that can block the synthetic opioid from entering the brain — essentially curing addiction by eliminating the high of euphoria.
“There is no doubt about it. We developed something that is a new game changer,” said Dr. Colin Haile, an associate research professor of psychology at UH and the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics (TIMES) told Fox News. visit to the research facility.
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“It’s a completely different strategy to treat an individual with opioid use disorder.”
Their vaccine works in a completely different way, said Dr. Haile, of other treatments for opioid use disorders and overdose deaths.
Dr. Colin Haile (center, bespectacled) is seen here cleaning a sample in his lab at the University of Houston. He believes the fentanyl vaccine his team has developed could help those in addiction recovery. (Fox News Media)
It basically makes antibodies, just like other vaccines that make them antibodies against a virus or bacteria.
The vaccine of Dr. Haile does the same thing by blocking the entry of fentanyl into the user’s brain.
Proteins are used to keep the drug in the bloodstream – it is then flushed out through the kidneys.
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“It’s similar to the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine stimulates the body to produce antibodies against fentanyl,” said Dr. Haile, “and if an individual consumes fentanyl, those antibodies will bind to the drug and prevent it from entering the brain.”
He added, “Without a vaccine, fentanyl gets into the brain quite easily, stimulates the euphoric centers, and can also stimulate the parts of the brain that control breathing, leading to overdose and death.”
A lethal dose of fentanyl is pictured next to a penny. (Drug Enforcement Administration)
Testing in rats and mice showed very promising results, Haile said, and he believes they will see the same findings once human trials begin in the coming weeks.
“We did extensive studies in rats and mice and the effect of the vaccine was quite dramatic,” he says. We demonstrated that, yes, the vaccine prevents the penetration of fentanyl into the brain. He carries it in his blood. And then the fentanyl is removed from the body.”
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He believes the vaccine could be available to the public within two years, he said.
“Given that the vaccine already consists of components that are already on the market and have already been tested in humans, we think that when it comes time to submit our application to the FDA, we hope that the approval process will be accelerated. .”
The team began work on the fentanyl vaccine nearly six years ago.
Dr. Haile and his team began working on the vaccine nearly six years ago, when an unprecedented spike in overdose deaths began to emerge. The vaccine was developed from two protein strands already used in other vaccine treatments.
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have become the leading cause of overdose deaths in the US, with over 110,000 estimated to have occurred between August 2021 and August 2022 – a staggering record for a single 12-month period.
Haile and his team say human trials will begin soon. They hope for FDA approval within the next two years. (Fox News Media)
With over 150 people dying every day from synthetic opioid overdoses, according to the CDC, the vaccine comes at a crucial time as the drug crisis grips the country.
“Unfortunately, starting about 10 years ago, the production of fentanyl increased and became much more mainstream in terms of illicit drug markets, to see it first as part of the drug supply and more recently , just completely. taking over every other illegal opioid,” Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who consults with the research team of Dr. Hail.
“So, heroin [use] it’s declining in many parts of the country because fentanyl is cheaper, easier to smuggle, and produces the same effects on the brain.”
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The development of the vaccine is funded by the Department of Defense, which officials tell Fox News supported the project after it was needed to address the prevalence of addiction among the families of many service members.
“We need this vaccine … There are so many people who could be helped.”
“This vaccine is for individuals who want to quit smoking. It’s not for individuals who don’t want to quit,” he says.
“A vaccinated individual — if they don’t want to kick their opioid addiction, they can take other drugs, other opioid drugs, or just other drugs that are non-targeting vaccine antibodies.”
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People have already contacted the team at the University of Houston asking to be added to future trials – something Dr. Haile says it underscores the need for this treatment.
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“We need this. We need this vaccine. And there are so many people who could be helped,” he says.
“It has to happen and it will happen.”
Fox News’ Evan Goldman contributed to this report.
Casey Stegall joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2007 and currently serves as a senior correspondent based in the Dallas bureau. He previously served as a correspondent based in Los Angeles.