Cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike were shocked to hear of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death in February from an overdose of heroin and cocaine, among other drugs. Now, two months later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an overdose antidote that could save thousands of other users from a similar fate.
This medication — Evzio — works like a common EpiPen, but instead of protecting against bee stings and peanut encounters, it releases naxolone into those who have overdosed on opioids like heroin or OxyContin. Considering that opioid overdoses lead to nearly 17,000 deaths per year, according to TIME, this simple device has the potential to prevent thousands of drug-related deaths, as Evzio will revive a person long enough to survive until an ambulance arrives.
Evzio is designed so that anyone can use it — even the untrained family member or friend of an opioid overdose victim. The medicine comes in a kit that includes audio instructions for new users and a safety feature that prevents against using the same needle twice.
The British Medical Journal recently published the promising results of a pilot program of Evzio in Massachusetts. The study found that Evzio revived 98 percent of victims to whom it was administered, and it significantly reduced the number of opioid-overdose deaths in communities where it was widely available.
Currently, the drug is only available by prescription; though last month Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder urged states to make it available to all first responders. The same day the drug was approved, New York State launched a $5 million program to distribute it to all of its police officers.
Dr. Eric Edwards, the chief medical officer of Kaleo, Inc., the company that manufacturers Evzio, suggests that the drug may be available over the counter in the near future: “We think this is the first step to building the safety data needed to show that it can be used appropriately,” he told TIME.
At a time when drug overdoses are on the rise, Evzio is a drug that could bring the deadly numbers down.
MORE: A Push to Make the Lifesaving Antidote to Overdose Available to All