Naloxone Use in Novel Potent Opioid and Fentanyl Overdoses in Emergency Department Patients.

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IMPORTANCE: Synthetic opioids, such as the fentanyl analogue and nitazene drug class, are among the fastest growing types of opioids being detected in patients in the emergency department (ED) with illicit opioid overdose (OD). However, clinical outcomes from OD of novel potent opioids (NPOs), specifically nitazenes, are unknown aside from small case series.

OBJECTIVE: To determine naloxone administration and clinical sequelae of patients who were in the ED with NPO overdose compared with fentanyl OD.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This is a cohort study subgroup analysis of adults admitted to the ED and tested positive for NPOs among in the ongoing nationwide ToxIC Fentalog cohort study from 2020 to 2022. Patients who were in the ED with a presumed acute opioid OD and residual blood samples were included, and those testing positive for NPOs were analyzed. Patients were included in this analysis if their confirmatory testing was positive for an NPO analyte, such as brorphine, isotonitazene, metonitazene, and/or N-piperidinyl etonitazene. A comparison group included patients that were positive for fentanyl and devoid of any other analytes on toxicologic analysis.

EXPOSURES: Patients were exposed to NPOs, including brorphine, isotonitazene, metonitazene and/or N-piperidinyl etonitazene.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcome was the total number of naloxone doses and total cumulative naloxone dose administered as part of routine clinical care following the OD. Naloxone requirements and clinical sequelae of NPO-positive patients were compared with those testing positive for fentanyl only.

RESULTS: During the study period, 2298 patients were screened, of whom 717 met inclusion criteria, 537 had complete laboratory testing data, with 11 (2.0%) positive for only fentanyl and 9 (1.7%) positive for NPOs (brorphine, isotonitazene, metonitazene, or N-piperidinyl etonitazene). The age range of patients was aged 20 to 57 years (4 males [44.4%] and 5 females [55.6%]). The NPO group received a statistically significantly higher mean (SD) number of naloxone boluses in-hospital (1.33 [1.50]) compared with the fentanyl group (0.36 [0.92]) (P = .02), which corresponded to a moderately large effect size (Cohen d = 0.78). Metonitazene overdose was associated with cardiac arrest and more naloxone doses overall. Metonitazene cases had a mean (SD) number of 3.0 (0) naloxone doses, and 2 of 2 patients (100%) with metonitazene overdoses were administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cohort study of patients admitted to the ED with confirmed opioid overdose testing positive for NPOs, in-hospital naloxone dosing was high compared with patients who tested positive for fentanyl alone. Further study is warranted to confirm these preliminary associations.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Emergency Medicine, Toxicology Division

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