US WorldMeds Becomes Partner to Battle The Opioid Epidemic During the Pandemic
Editor’s note: This information was provided by US WorldMeds and was edited for consistency and clarity, but not reported or written by U.S. Medicine staff.
NEW YORK — While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on life in the U.S., closures, staff shortages, and stay-at-home orders have greatly impacted those needing to access the healthcare system for non-COVID reasons. This includes those patients prescribed opioids for their chronic pain and those with or who are seeking treatment for opioid use disorder. Patients in underserved communities are often the most affected by disaster; COVID-19 is no exception.
COVID-19 meets the opioid epidemic in the perfect storm.
According to a recent article published in the American Journal of Managed Care, mounting evidence suggests the incidence of substance use is increasing during the pandemic and the opioid epidemic is seeing a resurgence. Further, there is a greater likelihood of patients being pushed into unplanned opioid withdrawal as stay-at-home orders cause disruption to all facets of everyday life.
According to Bob James, US WorldMeds’ director of medical affairs, “US WorldMeds recognizes that this may be a time when many patients are thrown into unplanned opioid withdrawal and need help with symptoms that can be devastating, even without the complication of quarantines and social distancing.”
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can come on as quickly as six hours after stopping the use of opioids and include aches and pains, yawning, stomach cramps, feeling sick, heart pounding, muscular tension, muscle spasms, chills, runny eyes, and insomnia.
US WorldMeds, a pharmaceutical company based in Louisville, KY, has been operating in the heart of the opioid epidemic as the developer and manufacturer of lofexidine (Lucemyra). Approved in 2018 for the mitigation of opioid withdrawal symptoms to facilitate abrupt opioid discontinuation in adults, lofexidine is the only oral non-opioid medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of opioid withdrawal symptoms.
(Lucemyra will not completely prevent the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and is not a treatment for Opioid Use Disorder. See Important Safety Information at the end of this presentation and the full prescribing information.)
“US WorldMeds has been active in addressing the opioid epidemic,” said Lee Warren, US WorldMeds’ chief operating officer. ”As we saw the fallout from this additional COVID-19 global crisis, we wanted to do our part to help underserved communities.”
US WorldMeds reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its partner, Healthcare Ready, for assistance in connecting the company to communities in need. Healthcare Ready is a not-for-profit organization founded after Hurricane Katrina to bring public health organizations together with the private sector to address pressing issues before, during, and after disasters.
“Healthcare Ready recognizes the critical role partnerships play in moving donations through the supply chain and into the hands of those who need them most, whether it’s PPE or a medication like Lucemyra, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sarah Baker, Healthcare Ready program director.
“Healthcare Ready connected the dots to VIP Community Services in the Bronx, NY, a federally qualified health clinic and certified community behavioral health clinic that offers integrated medical, behavioral health, housing, and wrap-around services to improve the health and well-being of the Bronx and surrounding communities,” Baker added. “VIP provides badly needed medical support to those suffering with substance use disorders, including opioid abuse and addiction.”
Following the Healthcare Ready referral, US WorldMeds donated approximately $500,000 worth of lofexidine to VIP to allow appropriate patients who are facing unplanned withdrawal to access the medication at no charge.
The community served by VIP has been hit hard by COVID-19. “If ever there was a time for a donation like this it’s now. COVID has highlighted how left-behind our patients have been in the pandemic,” said VIP CEO, Debbian Fletcher-Blake, family nurse practitioner. “For us it’s a win-win to receive a donation of Lucemyra to help those patients suffering from unplanned withdrawal.”
While no one could have imagined how the COVID-19 pandemic would impact society and in turn worsen the fallout of other concurrent national crises like the opioid epidemic, these four very different organizations quickly united to benefit those left hurting by this terrible convergence in an outstanding example of government and industry partnership to improve healthcare for all Americans.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION:
LUCEMYRA® can cause serious side effects, including low blood pressure, slow heart rate, and fainting. Watch for symptoms of low blood pressure or heart rate, including dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint at rest or when quickly standing up; if you experience these symptoms, call your healthcare provider right away and do not take your next dose of LUCEMYRA® until you have talked to your healthcare provider. Avoid becoming dehydrated or overheated and be careful not to stand up too suddenly from lying or sitting, as these may increase your risk of low blood pressure and fainting.
When your treatment is complete, you will need to stop taking LUCEMYRA® gradually, or your blood pressure could increase.
After a period of not using opioid drugs, you can become more sensitive to the effects of opioids if you start using them again. This may increase your risk of overdose and death.
Before taking LUCEMYRA®, tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including if you have low blood pressure, slow heart rate, any heart problems including history of heart attack or a condition called long QT syndrome, liver or kidney problems, or if you drink alcohol. Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding; it is not known if LUCEMYRA® can harm your unborn baby or whether LUCEMYRA® passes into your breast milk.
Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take benzodiazepines, barbiturates, tranquilizers, or sleeping pills, as taking these with LUCEMYRA® can cause serious side effects.
The most common side effects of LUCEMYRA® include low blood pressure or symptoms of low blood pressure such as lightheadedness, slow heart rate, dizziness, sleepiness, and dry mouth.
To report SUSPECTED ADVERSE REACTIONS or product complaints, contact US WorldMeds at 1-833-LUCEMYRA®. You may also report SUSPECTED ADVERSE REACTIONS to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.
Go to Lucemyra.com for full LUCEMYRA® prescribing information.
Am J Manag Care. 2020;26(7):June 1, 2020
WisBusiness News; June 29, 2020
The Colorado Sun; June 22, 2020
AMA-ASSN; May 28, 2020