Amid a national epidemic of prescription drug and heroin addiction, the Food and Drug Administration took an important step Thursday to save lives.
About 16,000 Americans died from opiate overdoses in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A highly effective antidote, Naloxone, reverses the slowed breathing that leads to death in opiate overdose cases. It has been available for years, but primarily in ambulances and emergency rooms. People who don't reach an ambulance or E.R. after an overdose are far more likely to die.
Thursday, the FDA approved an automatic injection device called Evzio, which is loaded with a pre-measured, accurate dose of naloxone. When the device is turned on, a recorded voice provides instructions on how to administer the dose.
The device will be available to individuals and caregivers. They will be able to save lives while summoning help.
Some critics contended that the device itself could be misused. That's true, but it's true of any drug. The FDA was on the mark in approving the device.
The greater objective, of course, is to reduce addiction itself, which is a much more difficult proposition. But in the meantime, the FDA is correct to help save lives that otherwise would be lost to addiction.