Chicago Deaths from Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Overdoses Could Be Reduced by Medical Treatment

-Physician training sessions will increase patient access to medical

office-based treatment for opioid addiction-

Sep 21, 2006, 01:00 ET from Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc.

    CHICAGO, Sept. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent string of opioid overdoses
 and deaths in Chicago and elsewhere in Cook County highlights the
 devastation of a dangerous new illegal drug mixture: the combination of
 heroin with fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller used to treat cancer
 pain and in anesthesia. According to the Medical Examiner's office, so far
 there have been nearly 200 fatal overdoses in the Chicago area attributable
 to heroin laced with fentanyl, while several times this many have occurred
     "The recent spike in fentanyl-related overdoses underscores the need
 for more aggressive treatment approaches and better access to new medical
 treatments," said Dr. Sarz Maxwell, Medical Director of Chicago Recovery
 Alliance. "Opioid addiction is a devastating chronic disease that needs to
 be treated much like we treat other chronic conditions such as diabetes and
 high blood pressure. Patients can now be treated, confidentially and
 conveniently, in the privacy of their doctors' offices. The problem is that
 there aren't enough doctors to handle the patient load. As we work to
 contain this crisis and prevent more overdoses, it is critical that access
 to medical treatment be made more widely available to patients throughout
 the greater metropolitan Chicago area."
     Opioid addiction is a growing public health problem that affects people
 from all walks of life. In Illinois, misuse of prescription painkillers
 such as hydrocodone and oxycodone remains a major problem and, in Chicago,
 heroin use is at alarming levels, according to a report by the U.S. Drug
 Enforcement Administration (DEA). And as evidenced by the current surge in
 fentanyl-heroin use, drug dealers are targeting this mixture in the Chicago
     The recent problems in Chicago and Illinois reflect a national public
 health crisis -- according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use
 and Health (2006), published this month by the Substance Abuse and Mental
 Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 4.7 million people
 currently misuse prescription pain relievers, second only to marijuana use.
 Among young adults, nonmedical use of prescription drugs increased from 5.4
 percent in 2002 to 6.3 percent in 2005. In addition, in terms of new users,
 in 2005 more people 12 years and older -- 2.2 million -- misused opioid
 painkillers for the first time than any other drug, including marijuana and
     Many people do not fully understand the danger of misusing opioid
 painkillers such as fentanyl. A recent national survey on the public's
 perceptions of opioid addiction, Prescription Painkiller/Heroin Addiction
 and Treatment, revealed that nearly half of the US public does not know
 that misusing prescription opioid painkillers is as harmful to the body,
 and fully as addictive, as heroin abuse.
     Physician Certification Training Available at Sessions and Online
     Any doctor may become certified to treat opioid dependence in his or
 her private office using an FDA-approved medicine called buprenorphine.
 Many patients prefer the privacy, convenience, and discretion that
 office-based treatment offers. According to Dr. Maxwell, it is critical
 that more doctors make themselves accessible to patients in need of
 treatment in order to reduce the area's high levels of opioid dependence
 and deaths.
     Doctors will find information about becoming certified to treat with
 buprenorphine at Additionally, information about
 online and CD-ROM training options may be obtained from 1-877-782-6966.
     "The current crisis in Chicago and throughout Illinois serves as a
 reminder that treatment is essential in saving the lives of people
 suffering from addiction," said Dr. Maxwell. "It upsets me greatly to think
 that there are people out there seeking buprenorphine treatment who are
 unable to get it -- especially when I consider the success I have seen in
 my practice with buprenorphine. I would urge every physician to learn about
 this treatment option and to consider becoming certified to treat the
 extremely high number of patients in the Chicago area who remain in need of
     Resources for Opioid Dependence and Its Treatment
     Addiction to opioids is defined as a long-term brain disease by the
 World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse
 (NIDA). It is a treatable medical condition that is caused by changes in
 the chemistry of the brain. This dependence can start with use of medicine
 that a doctor prescribes for serious pain but that a person continues to
 use after the medical need for pain relief has passed. Or it may begin as
 recreational drug use that spins out of control.
     Individuals who need more information about opioid dependence and its
 treatment, either for themselves or for someone they are concerned about,
 have several options. Educational materials on opioid dependence are
 available to answer questions about this often-misunderstood disease and
 the treatments that are available for it. To receive a free educational
 Resource Kit on these topics, visit or call
 1-866-455-TURN, both provided by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals.
     Additionally, the non-profit patient advocacy group NAABT -- National
 Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment -- is dedicated to
 helping educate the public on opioid dependence and treatment in a private
 doctor's office. NAABT now offers a nationwide confidential matching
 service to pair individuals seeking buprenorphine treatment with available
 doctors. "Increasingly more people are contacting NAABT for information on
 opioid dependence and treatment and for help finding doctors who can
 prescribe buprenorphine," said Timothy Lepak, president of NAABT. "This is
 a disease that does not discriminate. It affects people from all walks of
 life and all socioeconomic and demographic levels."
     For more information on Chicago-area physicians who can prescribe
 medicine to treat opioid dependence in a private medical office, visit SAMHSA's Web site also provides a physician locator
 and other valuable information at
     In the United States, buprenorphine is marketed as Suboxone(R)
 (buprenorphine HCl/naloxone HCl dihydrate) C-III Sublingual Tablets and
 Subutex(R) (buprenorphine HCl) C-III Sublingual Tablets, the only
 controlled medications under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000
 approved by the FDA for treatment of opioid dependence in a doctor's
 office. Suboxone and Subutex are manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser
     About Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc.
     Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a specialty pharmaceutical
 company that manufactures and markets Suboxone(R) (buprenorphine
 HCl/naloxone HCl dihydrate [2 mg/0.5 mg and 8 mg/2 mg]) C-III Sublingual
 Tablets and Subutex(R) (buprenorphine HCl [2 mg and 8 mg]) C-III Sublingual
 Tablets, formulations of buprenorphine used to treat opioid dependence.
 Suboxone and Subutex are the only controlled medications under the Drug
 Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 approved by the FDA for office-based
 treatment of opioid dependence. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. is
 committed to expanding access to medical therapies for patients suffering
 from the chronic, relapsing brain disease of opioid dependence. For more
 information, visit or Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. is
 a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reckitt Benckiser PLC, a publicly traded UK
     Important Safety Information
     Intravenous use of buprenorphine, usually in combination with
 benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants has been associated with
 significant respiratory depression and death. Suboxone(R) and Subutex(R)
 have potential for abuse and produces dependence of the opioid type with a
 milder withdrawal syndrome than full agonists. Cytolytic hepatitis and
 hepatitis with jaundice have been observed in the addicted population
 receiving buprenorphine. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies
 of Suboxone or Subutex (a pregnancy category C medication) in pregnancy.
 Due caution should be exercised when driving cars or operating machinery.
 The most commonly reported adverse events with Suboxone have included
 headache (36%, placebo 22%), withdrawal syndrome (25%, placebo 37%), pain
 (22%, placebo 19%), nausea (15%, placebo 11%), insomnia (14%, placebo 16%),
 sweating (14%, placebo 10%). See full prescribing information for complete
     Suboxone and Subutex are registered trademarks of Reckitt Benckiser
 Pharmaceuticals Inc.
     Media Contact: Cory Tromblee

SOURCE Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc.