The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new opioid called Dsuvia, which is a thousand times more powerful than morphine and 10 times stronger than fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that has been linked to the recent surge in overdose deaths.

The introduction of a powerhouse new opioid drug, at a time when the opioid abuse epidemic continues to get worse, has drug prevention and treatment experts in New Jersey bewildered and worried.

“There’s no question that we are extremely concerned that a drug of that kind of magnitude can wind up in the wrong hands,” said Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey.

He said the fact that the FDA is adding this drug “to an already dangerous situation where we have so many opiates, we don’t understand why this particular type of drug is even necessary.”

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement saying tight restrictions will be in place for Dsuvia. It will only be used in hospitals and other medical facilities and it won’t be available in pharmacies. But Valente pointed out that “there’s always a risk involved when you have any particular drug that is available, that it would be diverted.”

Dsuivia, or sufentanil, is manufactured by AcelRx Pharmaceuticals. The company said its "single-strength tablet and single-unit packaging are designed to mitigate the possibility of dosing errors, misuse and diversion."

"We are committed to the safe and effective administration of Dsuvia through diligent adherence to our FDA-approved Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies program," AcelRx CEO Vince Angotti said in a prepared statement announcing the FDA approval.

Don Parker, the president of the Carrier Clinic, said Dsuvia is synthetic “and it doesn’t take much for any of the traffickers who are involved in the production of illicit drugs to deconstruct something. They’ll reverse engineer it to the point where it can be produced.”

He also noted the Dsuvia tablets are small enough to be easily transported and distributed.

“We think there will be a frenzy for this because it promises a much stronger high," Parker said.

“It’s not a good day for us in treatment, in law enforcement, and it’s definitely not a good day for people who are using drugs. You’re talking about a higher degree of toxicity and lethality, there’s going to be a lot of pushback in our industry.”

Paul Ressler, the president of the Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation in Hamilton, is equally concerned.

“I’m nervous about this. Just because the FDA approves it, doesn’t make it a viable way to combat the epidemic, it’s scary, I think it’s a mistake," Ressler said. “It will get out into the streets. It’s not if, it’s when, and it will become a very popular drug to take.”

Ressler also said the FDA has a less-than-stellar record.

“They’ve blown it all along with the way they’ve handled their management of drugs, so why would we think they’d figure it out? I’m against the idea.”

Valente called recent projections that New Jersey could reach 3,000 opioid overdose deaths by the end of this year alarming.

“Adding anything that could even be more potent and powerful is certainly something we are very concerned about," he said.

Dsuvia has a number of serious side effects, including exhaustion, respiratory problems, possible coma and death.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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