Designing traceable opioid material§ kits to improve laboratory testing during the U.S. opioid overdose crisis.Toxicol Lett. 2019 Dec 15; 317:53-58.TL
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the White House declared a public health emergency to address the opioid crisis (Hargan, 2017). On average, 192 Americans died from drug overdoses each day in 2017; 130 (67%) of those died specifically because of opioids (Scholl et al., 2019). Since 2013, there have been significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids - particularly those involving illicitly-manufactured fentanyl. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that 75% of all opioid identifications are illicit fentanyls (DEA, 2018b). Laboratories are routinely asked to confirm which fentanyl or other opioids are involved in an overdose or encountered by first responders. It is critical to identify and classify the types of drugs involved in an overdose, how often they are involved, and how that involvement may change over time. Health care providers, public health professionals, and law enforcement officers need to know which opioids are in use to treat, monitor, and investigate fatal and non-fatal overdoses. By knowing which drugs are present, appropriate prevention and response activities can be implemented. Laboratory testing is available for clinically used and widely recognized opioids. However, there has been a rapid expansion in new illicit opioids, particularly fentanyl analogs that may not be addressed by current laboratory capabilities. In order to test for these new opioids, laboratories require reference standards for the large number of possible fentanyls. To address this need, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Traceable Opioid Material§ Kits product line, which provides over 150 opioid reference standards, including over 100 fentanyl analogs. These kits were designed to dramatically increase laboratory capability to confirm which opioids are on the streets and causing deaths. The kits are free to U.S based laboratories in the public, private, clinical, law enforcement, research, and public health domains.