Optimization of the Production of Lofexidine; An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Current Opioid Withdrawal Treatments

Malmgren, Nicholas, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Anderson, Eric, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, University of Virginia

In the last twenty years, the recreational misuse and abuse of opiates has materialized as one of the most pressing social issues affecting the world with unignorable human, social, and cultural implications. As of late 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency with over one hundred people dying from overdose per day in the United States alone. Outside of the significant mortality rate, the daily lives of those afflicted with opioid addiction and those around them are hindered significantly, mainly stemming from the adverse symptoms of withdrawal. In an attempt to mitigate these symptoms and eliminate opioid dependence, there have been a variety of medication approved as viable treatment methods, such as clonidine, methadone, buphrenorphine-nalaxone, and naltrexone. However, each of these treatments varies in price, patient involvement, and dosage, which results in substantially different rates of success in reducing opiate dependence. There have been several attempts to introduce alternative treatment methods that address the flaws of the medication treatments, such as abstinent housing with behavioral counseling, ibogaine, cannabis, a delayed release system using a polymer injection or educational based programs such as opioid overdose prevention programs. This research will focus on creating a cohesive comparison of each of the available medication treatments in an attempt to identify which is most effective in abating opioid addiction, while simultaneously discussing the potential for the alternative treatment to replace the current treatments as practical substitutes. This comparison will be analyzed and presented most effectively using the actor network theory outlined by Latour, and more specifically the proposition of both programs of action and delegation of responsibility. The actor-network framework will be used as a lens when reviewing case studies or literature discussing the efficacy of each medication and the treatment options gaining popularity. A few of the aforementioned medications, namely buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, involve prescribing a less addictive opioid to alleviate the symptoms experienced. In 2018, the FDA approved lofexidine, a non-opioid withdrawal drug; however, prices have remained astronomical compared to the opioid counterparts. Therefore, the technical portion of the project focuses on optimizing the production of lofexidine at an industrial scale to lower manufacturing costs and prices to increase widespread availability. The research will culminate in a definitive conclusion as to the most effective opioid treatment method in an attempt to solve the opioid crisis with lofexidine as a potential alternative medication.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
lofexidine, opioid, withdrawal, treatment

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Eric Anderson
STS Advisor: Rider Foley
Technical Team Members: Julia Andreozzi, Daniel Lim, Christian Mcilvenna, John Nguyen

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