Pharmacy stakeholder reports on ethical and logistical considerations in anti-opioid vaccine development

March 25, 2021



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. This work compares logistical and ethical considerations surrounding currently available interventions for opioid use disorder with an anti-opioid vaccine approach.


The opinions of student pharmacists and practicing pharmacists assessing knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes toward current and future OUD management strategies were characterized 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.


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.


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.


BMC Medical Ethics journal cover

Funding Source

The project described was supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), grant UL1TR000427.

This study was conducted in collaboration with the Pharmacy Practice Enhancement and Action Research Link (PearlRx) a pharmacist practice-based research network which is in part supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, through the NIH NCATS grant UL1TR002373.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

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  1. Weitzman, E. R., Kossowsky, J., Blakemore, L. M., Cox, R., Dowling, D. J., Levy, O., Needles, E. W., & Levy, S. (2022). Acceptability of a Fentanyl Vaccine to Prevent Opioid Overdose and Need for Personalized Decision-Making. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 75(Supplement_1), S98–S109.