BACKGROUND: As opioid use disorder (OUD) incidence and its associated deaths continue to persist at elevated rates, the development of novel treatment modalities is warranted. Recent strides in this therapeutic area include novel anti-opioid vaccine approaches.
OBJECTIVES: Compare logistical and ethical considerations surrounding currently available interventions for opioid use disorder with an anti-opioid vaccine approach.
METHODS: The opinions of student pharmacists and practicing pharmacists regarding utilization and perceived efficacy of current and future OUD management strategies were assessed using a staged, multi-modal research approach incorporating a focus group, pilot survey development and refinement, and final survey deployment. Survey responses were assessed using one- and two-way parametric and non-parametric analyses where appropriate, and multi-dimensional matrix profiles were compared using z-tests following an exhaustive combinatorial sum of differences calculation between items within each compared matrix.
RESULTS: Focus group content analysis revealed a high level of agreeableness among participants regarding anti-opioid vaccine technology and a sense of shared ownership regarding solutions to the opioid epidemic at large. Pilot survey results demonstrated subject ability to consider both pragmatic and ethical considerations related to current therapeutics and novel interventions in a single instrument, with high endurance amongst engaged subjects. Access inequality was the most concerning ethical consideration identified for anti-opioid vaccines. Support for anti-opioid vaccine implementation across various clinical scenarios was strongest for voluntary use amongst individuals in recovery, and lowest for mandatory use in at-risk individuals.
CONCLUSIONS: Ethical and logistical concerns surrounding anti-opioid vaccines were largely similar to those for current OUD therapeutics overall. Anti-opioid vaccines were endorsed as helpful potential additions to current OUD therapeutic approaches, particularly for voluntary use in the later stages of clinical progression.