May 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it's approved for the first time a non-opioid drug for treatment of opioid withdrawal.
The FDA said the drug Lucemyra, made by US WorldMeds, can be used as part of a long-term treatment for managing opioid use disorder. It treats narcotic withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, muscle aches, diarrhea, anxiety, sleep problems and sweats.
"We're dedicated to encouraging innovative approaches to help mitigate the physiological challenges presented when patients discontinue opioids," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "We know that the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be one of the biggest barriers for patients seeking help and ultimately overcoming addiction."
In 2016, two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in the United States involved opioids -- mostly fentanyl, heroin and prescription painkillers -- the FDA said.
Gottlieb said fear of withdrawal often discourages those with a physical dependence from seeking treatment, and the potentially intense symptoms often contribute to relapses.
Withdrawal is typically managed with the substitution of another opioid, like buprenorphine or methadone, which is then gradually reduced.
As part of a strategy to fight the crisis, the FDA said it's working to decrease opioid exposure to prevent new addictions and punish those who contribute to illicit opioid distribution.
Several states this week sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, for selling narcotic painkillers the lawsuits say contribute to the crisis.
New York, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas have filed lawsuits against the drug maker. They say Purdue uses misleading marketing tactics and exploit addictions by pushing doctors to increase patients' use of the drugs.