New medical device aims to combat opioid addictions
A new medical device with the goal of preventing opioid addiction was announced by a Dallas-based medical technology company, called the Sotiras.
The startup, the Runatek Corporation announced on March 16 the device will allow for patients to maintain set concentrations of prescription pain medication in their bloodstream while managing chronic pain, according to the statement announcing the creation.
The company launched its first Indiegogo campaign one week after releasing the statement with the goal of raising $12,500 to advance prototyping.
“This will revolutionize the way that we approach pain management, and ultimately, would end the opioid crisis in America,” Runatek said in a statement.
There have been nearly 841,000 deaths due to drug overdoses in general. Almost 70 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2019 were related to opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The crisis stems from misuse of the drug which has often been attributed to a lack of morals or a failure of character when, in reality, the issue has been overly stigmatized,” said assistant professor at UH’s College of Pharmacy J. Douglas Thornton.
Healthcare advocates reiterate the dangers of stigmatization surrounding opioids as this can lead to improper interventions that ultimately harm marginalized patients and neglect those with Opioid Use Disorder.
“The response to the opioid crisis has been slow and focused primarily on what happens after someone develops an addiction, which is like bailing water out of a boat without fixing the hole in the side,” Runatek CEO Matthew Lucci said.
Lucci hopes the Sotiras will be used for all patients taking opioids for chronic pain, he said. He believes widespread use of this device paired with the technology behind it makes the company’s goal to end the opioid crisis achievable.
“The preventative measures conducted by Runatek’s creation of the Sotiras device is just what I envisioned non-addictive pain management would be like,” said biology junior Sally Peña. “Its compact structure and steady administration dosage are the needed consistency to prevent improper use of opioid medications.”
Runatek is aiming for Food and Drug Administration approval once the funding goal is met and the prototype has been finalized. The expectation is to get the device in the hands of the people who need it in the next 18 months.
“We’ve received a lot of messages of support and people feeling empowered to tell their own stories about struggles with opioids since we launched the Indiegogo campaign,” Lucci said. “When you’re focused on trying to fix a problem, rather than assigning blame, then you create an environment where people want to work alongside you to help be a part of the solution.”
The opioid crisis has gotten worse during the pandemic, with large increases in the number of overdoses.
“We tend to overlook how the pandemic has emotionally affected us through the [hardships faced],” Peña said. “Whether it’s a loss of a loved one or financial instability, just to name two out of the many, it has rested a heavy mental toll upon us.”
Along with access to medications to treat opioid use disorder being limited, “co-morbid mental health conditions, isolation and unemployment have all been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to the worsening opioid crisis,” Thornton said. “These factors affect patients in need of treatment for the first time as well as those in all phases of recovery.”
A study conducted by the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program from 2020 found a correlation between overdoses and the pandemic response protocols. Many experts have also echoed Thornton’s sentiments regarding the connection between the two crises with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health assistant professor Micheal Barnett saying 2020 was bound to be the deadliest year on record for opioid overdoses.
The solution to the crisis is very much multifaceted, according to Thornton.
“We need two broad strategies that, one, care for the people currently suffering from a substance use disorder and two, prevent others from succumbing to this disease,” Thornton said.
Peña echoes Thornton’s sentiments and states granting better accessibility to those who have been marginalized in receiving proper healthcare services is crucial when addressing this crisis.
More innovation like the Sotiras is certainly encouraged, according to Thornton.
“We can all do better by being more compassionate with one another during this unprecedented time,” Thornton said.