HHS Plans to Develop Nose Spray Treatment for Cyanide Poisoning

The agency announced a 17-month, $12.7 million agreement under which Emergent BioSolutions will develop an intranasal, stabilized form of isoamyl nitrite.

The first nose spray treatment for the life-threatening effects of cyanide poisoning will be developed under an agreement between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Emergent BioSolutions of Gaithersburg, Md., HHS announced Sept. 18. The treatment is needed because cyanide could be used as a chemical weapon against the United States, according to the agency.

"Cyanide is easily obtained, and exposure to high levels of the chemical can cause death within minutes," said Rick Bright, Ph.D., director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of ASPR. "All currently approved cyanide antidotes are administered intravenously, which takes time, training, and medical resources. To save lives, first responders need a treatment they can administer easily within seconds in the field."

The agency announced a 17-month, $12.7 million agreement under which Emergent will develop an intranasal, stabilized form of isoamyl nitrite. Amyl nitrite traditionally has been used to treat angina pectoris, severe chest pain caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, and studies have shown amyl nitrite to be an effective treatment for cyanide poisoning, although the drug is not approved by FDA specifically for that use. The company will develop a reformulated active ingredient, isoamyl nitrite, along with an intranasal delivery device, with the goal of gaining FDA approval. The contract can be extended up to a total of approximately $63 million over five years.

As a BARDA partner, Emergent will conduct nonclinical and clinical safety and efficacy studies; manufacturing activities; and all associated regulatory, quality assurance, management work, and administrative activities necessary prior to the initiation of a Phase 3 (large) clinical study.

This project is part of BARDA's integrated portfolio for the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases.

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