Emergent's next-gen nasal spray device snares shelf life extension for opioid overdose drug Narcan

Emergent's new Narcan nasal spray device launched in July. (EmergentBioSolutions).

Emergent BioSolutions stepped up its response to the U.S. opioid crisis in 2018 with its buyout of Adapt Pharma and its overdose-reversing naloxone nasal spray, Narcan. Now, hard on the heels of a new spray device launch, the company has won the OK for an extension to the lifesaving drug's shelf life. 

The FDA extended the shelf life of Narcan's 4-milligram dose to 36 months from 24 months, the Maryland-based drugmaker said in a release. That's good news for first responders and others who keep the overdose antidote on hand for emergencies.

The longer shelf life was made possible by Emergent's next-gen nasal spray device, rolled out in July. Distinguished from the original device by a red plunger, the new device improves Narcan storage and helps protect the drug outside normal temperature ranges, the company said. The FDA specifically approved the device for storage below 25 degrees.

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Originally developed by Adapt Pharma, Narcan won approval in late 2015 as the opioid crisis continued to intensify in the U.S. In April 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, issued a public health advisory urging more Americans to carry naloxone. 

Emergent itself hit the naloxone scene in August 2018, when it shelled out $635 million up front, plus up to $100 million in potential sales-based milestones, to purchase Adapt and its overdose-reversing Narcan. That deal marked Emergent's second buyout of the year focused on public health crises after it snapped up speciality vaccine maker PaxVax for $270 million. 

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More recently, the company set its sights on a new global health crisis, COVID-19. AstraZeneca in June inked an $87 million deal with Emergent to reserve capacity at its Baltimore Bayview facility for manufacturing of the British drugmaker's University of Oxford-partnered coronavirus vaccine candidate, AZD1222. AstraZeneca dialed up the deal in July, pledging an additional $174 million to Emergent to produce bulk drug substance for the adenovirus-based shot. 

Meanwhile, Emergent also signed a work order with Johnson & Johnson, valued at a whopping $480 million, to crank out doses of its DNA-based COVID-19 jab starting in 2021. 

That's not to say the company has been wholly focused on the pandemic in 2020. In July, as the company was hashing out vaccine manufacturing pacts with major shot players, Emergent received a contract modification from the U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to order additional doses of its up-and-coming anthrax vaccine, AV7909, also known by the trade name NuThrax.

The option, worth $258 million, builds on a 2016 procurement pact with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)  to develop the shot and deliver an initial three million doses to the U.S.' Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).