ELITE Entrepreneur Michael Heffernan of Collegium Pharmaceutical

Michael Heffernan


Collegium Pharmaceutical



Revolutionizing Chronic Pain Management

With the risk-taking foresight of an entrepreneur and the clinical understanding of a pharmacist, Michael Heffernan is able to identify problems in the healthcare industry—and then tackle them head on. In his more than 25 years in this industry, he founded three companies, including his latest venture, Collegium Pharmaceutical. His mission: Make medications safer or more effective through innovative drug delivery technologies, starting with the growing need for safer, less abusable prescription opioids for the treatment of chronic pain.

The widespread prescribing of opioids is well-known, as is the potential for abuse, misuse, diversion, and addiction. Inappropriate opioid use takes its toll on the industry—costing an estimated $72.5B annually for private and public health payers, and leading to a 300% increase in emergency department visits over the past 10+ years. But misuse is not always intentional. Approximately two of three patients with chronic pain don’t think cutting, crushing, or grinding medication changes the way it works. But it does.

The manipulation of some extended-release (ER) opioids can lead to the rapid release and absorption of a potentially fatal dose. And many patients simply manipulate a drug to make it easier to swallow. Up to 40% of Americans experience swallowing difficulties, but to this point, many opioid medications with abuse-deterrent features are not appropriate for patients with swallowing difficulties, gastrostomy tubes, or nasogastric tubes.

And that is where Mike’s team at Collegium Pharmaceutical is making its mark. They have developed novel DETERx microsphere technology, which is designed to avoid increases in peak plasma concentrations and rapid drug release when manipulated (crushed, chewed, dissolved), misused, or abused. This technology is used in the company’s lead product, Xtampza ER, which is the first and only oxycodone that maintains an extended-release pharmacokinetic profile when manipulated. That means there is no risk to patients who need to crush, dissolve, or chew the product in order to take it. In addition, Xtampza ER is also resistant to other common means of opioid abuse such as snorting and injecting. Mike—and Collegium—are poised to change the way in which patients, caregivers, and prescribers think about the management of chronic pain.


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