WKYT Investigates: New fentanyl more resistant to overdose antidote

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The state forensic lab in Frankfort investigates about 30,000 drug cases a year. Recently, a new analog of fentanyl is showing up in test results. The drug is called acrylfentanyl and is known to be more resistant to naloxone, the antidote to an opioid overdose.

"Relying on that naloxone is kind of a dicey proposition at this point," explained Jeremy Triplett, supervisor of the forensic lab. Right now, Triplett said his lab is seeing about five cases of acrylfentanyl a month.

"It's taking a lot more to generally wake people up than it normally would in terms of naloxone and the antidotes," explained University of Kentucky emergency room Dr. Walter Lubbers.

"What we're seeing now is an increase ... of people that come in that get a dose of naloxone, and that dose wears off, and they fall back asleep. And they get another dose, and they fall back asleep. Sometimes they get a third dose or continuous infusion of it."

Dr. Lubbers recalled, "When I was a resident, five or six years ago, occasionally it would happen but it certainly wasn't the norm, and now you can count on it fairly frequently with fair regularity."

Van Ingram, Executive Director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said House Bill 333 caught these fentanyl analogs ahead of time, making them all Schedule 1 controlled substances if the FDA hasn't approved them.

"Certainly I hope our federal government is pushing back hard against the Chinese that control their chemical supply. Because it seems to be that they can get whatever they want when they want it, to make whatever they want."

Currently, Triplett's forensic lab is seeing about five different analogs of fentanyl on a daily basis. And the amount of fentanyl coming into the lab has more than doubled in just two years.

"The way the drugs are progressing and becoming more and more severe, they're starting to even exceed the ability of the naloxone to bring you back," he said.

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