Dsuvia and the Continuing Debate about Opioid Use

Medicine bottle

A new opioid drug is creating controversy in the ongoing debate about opioids and opioid use.

On November 2, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had approved a new opioid. Known by the brand name Dsuvia, it is a form of the drug sufentanil that is sublingual, which means people use this tablet by placing it under their tongues.

Dsuvia is a powerful drug. How powerful? It is 500 to 1,000 times stronger than the similar drug morphine. It is even five to ten times more powerful than the similar drug fentanyl.

Media reports have discussed fentanyl a great deal because people combine the drug with other drugs, such as heroin. A number of users have overdosed and died because they unknowingly consumed this fentanyl.

Dsuvia is even more powerful than fentanyl. Some say that this power can help it serve as a powerful tool to fight pain. It is easy to use and users feel its effects quickly. Supports of the drug say medical professionals can contain this power because they can only administer the drug in medical facilities and not at home.

But, the power of the drug worries other people. Some have questioned the need for another powerful opioid when opioid misuse is causing so many overdoses and deaths. A member of the FDA advisory committee who criticized opioids in the past said that the committee held a meeting about Dsuvia on a day he wasn’t able to attend because of a long-planned absence.

FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that Dsuvia may be very helpful to soldiers who have suffered pain from battle. Gottlieb also acknowledged the fears about Dsuvia and about opioid misuse:

As a physician and regulator, I won’t bypass legitimate questions and concerns related to our role in addressing the opioid crisis…. We owe it to Americans who want the FDA to do our part to help end one of the biggest addiction crises of modern times, while we carefully balance these grave risks against patient needs.

The FDA commissioner acknowledges that Dsuvia may carry positives and negatives. Should the FDA have investigated the drug more? What will happen when people start using the drug? As with other matters of drug and alcohol abuse, it may be a good idea to continue to investigate matters.