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Fentanyl Vaccine Called ‘Game-Changer’ | High Times

Can a vaccine against fentanyl potentially save thousands? Recent animal studies published in The Journal Pharmaceutics indicates that a fentanyl vaccine was able to block the drug from entering the brain of rats—thus making it a worthy candidate for human studies and eventually something available to the public that can save lives.

Three doses of vaccine were administered to rats at three week intervals. Another group received placebo. To determine if the drug was working, they tested the immunized rats’ pain responses by heating up their tails for up to 10 seconds and seeing how long they took to pull away.

The entry of Fentanyl into brain was significantly lessened by vaccination. Additionally, anti-fentanyl antibodies were directed at fentanyl and had no side effects with opioids. 

“We believe these findings could have a significant impact on a very serious problem plaguing society for years—opioid misuse,” study lead author Colin Haile told University of Houston (UH) news. “Our vaccine is able to generate anti-fentanyl antibodies that bind to the consumed fentanyl and prevent it from entering the brain, allowing it to be eliminated out of the body via the kidneys. Thus, the individual will not feel the euphoric effects and can ‘get back on the wagon’ to sobriety.” 

Haile is a UH research associate professor in psychology and Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics. He also founded the UH Drug Discovery Institute.  

“The anti-fentanyl antibodies were specific to fentanyl and a fentanyl derivative and did not cross-react with other opioids, such as morphine. That means a vaccinated person would still be able to be treated for pain relief with other opioids,” said Haile. 

Each day, more than 150 people are killed by overdoses of synthetic opioids. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger that heroin, and 100 times as strong than morphine. The amount of fentanyl in a dose of just 2mg, which is equivalent to two cups of rice, could prove fatal, depending on your size.  

“These preclinical results demonstrate efficacy in neutralizing [fentanyl]’s effects and warrant further development as a potential therapeutic for OUD and overdose in humans,” researchers wrote in the study. “We expect minimal side effects in clinical trials because the two components of our formulation (CRM and dmLT) are already in other vaccines on the market or have been tested in multiple human clinical trials and shown to be safe and effective. The dose used for the current study is similar to that used in clinical trials in humans. Because low vaccination concentrations can elicit sufficient anti-inflammatory responses,[fentanyl] antibody levels, we expect there to be no adverse events when this vaccine is tested in humans.”

There were no side effects from the vaccine in immunized rats. 

The researchers are planning to produce a high-quality vaccine for clinical use in the near future. Human clinical trials will begin soon.  

There are efforts to reduce the devastating effects of fentanyl on America. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced September’s results from a large-scale drug operation. This included data from May to September that showed over 10,000,000 fentanyl pills, and 36 million fatal doses.

Fentanyl, according to the DEA is considered the most dangerous drug in America. “In 2021, a record number of Americans—107,622—died from a drug poisoning or overdose,” the DEA release reads. “Sixty-six percent of those deaths can be attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”