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Opiant Jumps on Opioid Overdose Treatment Results

Opiant Pharmaceuticals climbs as the company reports positive results for its nasal spray treatment for opioid overdoses.

Opiant Pharmaceuticals  (OPNT) - Get Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Report skyrocketed Wednesday after the company announced positive top-line results for a study of its nasal spray treatment for opioid overdoses.

Shares of the Santa Monica, Calif., company were up 26% to $16.79 at last check.

The study was conducted in 68 healthy subjects and compared the treatment, OPNT003, nalmefene hydrochloride nasal spray, with an intramuscular injection of nalmefene hydrochloride.

According to an initial analysis, the top-line data demonstrated that nasal nalmefene achieved "significantly higher plasma concentrations compared with an intramuscular injection," the company said. 

The time for nasal nalmefene to achieve maximum
plasma concentrations was consistent with data from the previously completed pilot study, about 15 minutes.

Northland analyst Carl Byrnes said the results were "exemplary across all key metrics," according to the Fly.

The analyst called it "a major de-risking event in OPNT003's development" given that the drug demonstrated its rapid onset of action and long plasma half-life necessary for treating fentanyl overdose. 

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Byrnes, who anticipates topline results from the company's ongoing pharmacodynamics study in the fourth quarter, has an outperform rating and $42 price target on Opiant shares.

Roger Crystal, president and CEO, said in a statement that the opioid epidemic has worsened during the COVID-19 outbreak and that "the nationwide spread of potent illicit synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, with a half-life more than seven hours, is driving significant numbers of opioid overdose deaths."

"A rescue agent with a rapid onset and a long half-life, is critical to saving lives from overdose," Crystal said.

Opioids were involved in nearly 50,000 deaths in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control, over six times the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths in 1999.

In February, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. reportedly agreed to pay more than $550 million to settle claims by U.S. states that it helped fuel the opioid epidemic by providing marketing advice to drugmakers including Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Report.

Purdue Pharma agreed to pay a multi-billion fine and plead guilty to three felonies to settle federal charges related to how it marketed its addictive painkiller OxyContin, which has been partly blamed for accelerating the opioid crisis.

In December, the Justice Department sued Walmart  (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report over opioid distribution.

In October, Mallinckrodt  (MNK) - Get Mallinckrodt Plc Report became the third major opioid producer to file for bankruptcy, weighed down by thousands of  lawsuits that have blamed drugmakers and distributors for the epidemic of overdose deaths.