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HHS Secretary Mentions Opioid Vaccine, Though not Realistic in Near Future

Earlier this month, Tom Price, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made a statement about a vaccine to fight opioid addiction in a press briefing about the administration’s pledge to handle the growing opioid crisis. 


In his statement, Price said “One of the exciting things they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is incredibly exciting” (Le, 2017; Arter, 2017). However, many experts have stepped forward to say that families with addicted loved ones shouldn’t get their hopes up just yet, as a vaccine of any kind is far off. 


Dr. Ivan Montoya stated, “It’s a long process, and it takes years” (Drash, 2017). Dr. Montoya is the acting director of the Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). While NIDA is certainly working on a vaccine for opioid addiction, the vaccine is still being testing on animals and in very early phases of testing (Drash, 2017). Dr. Montoya explained, “Sometimes the translation from animals is not necessarily the same in humans So we have to do the human studies” (Drash, 2017). 


Furthermore, Baylor College of Medicine psychiatry professor and specialist on addiction vaccines Dr. Thomas R. Kosten stated, “I can’t imagine the vaccine would be on the market before the Trump administration is over” (Le, 2017). Dr. Kosten, who worked on a cocaine vaccine and is currently working on a vaccine for fentanyl, also had something to say about Price: “He may be a physician, but he’s not terribly well-informed about addictions” (Le, 2017). 


The vaccine currently being tested by NIDA would use “the body’s own  immune system to fight opioids before they can reach the brain and take effect” (Le, 2017). 




Arter, M. (2017). HHS Secretary: NIH working on ‘vaccine for addiction’. Retrieved from http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/melanie-arter/hhs-secretary-nih-working-vaccine-addiction
Drash, W. (2017). Vaccines for opioid addiction nowhere close to reality, experts say. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/11/health/vaccines-for-opioid-addiction/index.html
Le, B. (2017). Is an opioid vaccine close to becoming a reality? Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/opioid-vaccine-close-becoming-reality