HHS Secretary: NIH Working on 'Vaccine for Addiction'

Melanie Arter | August 9, 2017 | 12:40pm EDT
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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (Screenshot of White House video)

(CNSNews.com) - Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Tuesday that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is working on a "vaccine for addiction."

"One of the exciting things that they're actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is an incredibly exciting prospect," Price said of the NIH.


At a White House press briefing in Bedminster, N.J., where the president is working while the White House is undergoing repairs, Price explained how serious the opioid crisis has become, saying the number of people dying from opioid overdoses could fill the Yankee or Dodger Stadium every year.

"The numbers are absolutely daunting -- 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015; 33,000 of those approximately related to opioids. The numbers in 2016 are no better, and the numbers in 2017 are even worse than 2016," Price said.

According to the NIH, immunotherapy or vaccines, "will be available to sustain abstinence, even prevent addiction."

"Studies are underway to develop or improve vaccines that use antibodies to bind the drug while it is still in the bloodstream, preventing it from entering the brain.  A vaccine for nicotine addiction is already in advanced efficacy trials, having garnered significant improvement in smoking cessation rates and continuous long-term smoking abstinence," NIH stated on its website under drug abuse and addiction.

Price said he briefed President Donald Trump on his strategy for dealing with the opioid crisis.

That strategy includes among other things ensuring that they have the resources and information needed for prevention, treatment, and recovery. It also includes "providing best practices for states and those that are engaged in that process, making certain that we have overdose reversing medication -- naloxone and Narcan -- as present as needed and possible anywhere across the country," and identifying data.

"Why is it that 52,000 Americans succumbed to an overdose death in 2015 and those numbers continue to increase?" Price said. 

"Fourth, is the research aspect of this. What is the NIH doing? What can they do? And of exciting things to provide for, hopefully, pain medication that is not addictive or is not euphoric," he said, noting that NIH is working on an addiction vaccine. "And then, finally, how do we treat pain in this nation?" 

Price said that as a former orthopedic surgeon, he knows "that physicians and other providers have oftentimes sensed that there is an incentive to provide narcotic medication, and we need to do all that we can to make certain that, yes, people are provided appropriate narcotic medication when necessary, but no more than necessary."

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