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Jack Fishman, 83, helped develop drug overdose antidote, dies

Jack Fishman, a research scientist who saved countless

Jack Fishman, a research scientist who saved countless lives by helping develop in the 1960s an antidote for opioid overdoses, died Dec. 7, 2013, at his Remsenburg home. He was 83. He leaves his wife, Joy; his brother, Jerry; five children and 10 grandchildren. Newsday's obituary for Jack Fishman
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Jack Fishman, a research scientist who saved countless lives by helping develop an antidote for opioid overdoses, died earlier this month at his Remsenburg home. He was 83.

Fishman's family did not disclose the cause of death.

Naloxone prevents heroin and similar drugs -- including prescription medicines like codeine and OxyContin -- from claiming people's lives by keeping them from breathing.

Developed by Fishman and colleagues in the 1960s, it remains the treatment of choice in many countries, and is on the World Health Organization's Model Lists of Essential Medicines.

"It's almost a wonder drug," the scientist's wife, Joy, said. "So he saved hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world."

Rabbi Menachem M. Katz of the Aleph Institute in Miami, a social-service agency, called Fishman "a great scientist."

"However, what was most unique about him was his humility," said Katz, who described himself as a friend of the family. "He gave away millions to charity without fanfare and recognition and just wanted to help those in need."

Philadelphia honored Fishman and his colleague, Harold Blumberg, who discovered that the compound was an effective narcotic antagonist, with the 1982 John Scott award, one of its highest prizes. Previous winners include Marie Curie, Orville Wright and Thomas Edison.

Naloxone, known as Narcan, first had to be injected, but now is available as a nasal spray.

As a result, states and counties around the nation are making the antidote widely available, training first responders and laymen how to use it -- and equipping them with it.

Suffolk and Nassau offer workshops and free state-provided Narcan kits for residents who are not medical professionals. Officers in Suffolk precincts have been issued the drug; Nassau has a similar plan in the works.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based national advocacy group, said that with prescription drug use soaring, "We are arguing anybody who gets a pain medication filled in the pharmacy -- the pharmacist should make it come with Naloxone."

Fishman also was a prominent researcher of steroid hormones, analyzing their role in cancer.

He was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1930. When he was 8, his family fled the Nazis, finding safety in Shanghai, along with many other refugees.

Immigrating to the United States in 1948, Fishman attended Yeshiva College, studying chemistry.

He later became a professor at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

At Rockefeller University, he was director of the Laboratory for Biochemical Endocrinology, and he was the research director at the Strang-Cornell Institute for Cancer Research.

Fishman also was the president of IVAX Corp., a pharmaceutical firm based in Miami.

The World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and other organizations tapped him as a consultant.

He also is survived by his brother, Jerry; five children; and 10 grandchildren.

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