Researchers develop heroin vaccine to fight the opioid crisis

Researchers with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program have developed an experimental heroin vaccine capable of preventing the drug from passing the blood-brain barrier in mice. Findings were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Amid the opioid epidemic, researchers have developed a heroin vaccine prevents the drug from affecting its user. The vaccine could be a step forward in reducing the number of addicted individuals as well as the overdose rate.

"By eliciting antibodies that bind with heroin in the blood, the vaccine aims to block the euphoria and addictive effects," said Gary Matyas, PhD, Chief of Adjuvants and Formulations for the U.S. Military Research Program (MHRP). "We hope to give people a window so they can overcome their addiction."

In the study, researchers explained how the vaccine produced antibodies against many of the commonly misused opioids including hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and codeine. Additionally, the study noted the vaccine should not be used with other drugs for opioid misuse like methadone and naltrexone because the antibodies do not cross-react.

"Although we are still in the early phase, this study suggests that vaccination can be used together with standard therapies to prevent the withdrawal and craving symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal," said Matyas.