As the year kicked off, an advisory committee recommended that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve a revolutionary implant designed to cut addicts’ inordinate cravings for heroin or painkillers often prescribed by physicians.
The implant, also known as proburphine, has already been shown to be able to ease addict’s withdrawal symptoms, reduce the risk of relapse, and decrease cravings for heroin or prescription painkillers by providing a steady dose of buprenorphine.
According to some physicians, the implant is a useful addition to the current short lineup of addiction’s medication-assisted treatment options. And, this long-lasting implant will have a few advantages over its oral dose variants. It lasts for half a year under the skin. Therefore, unless the patients dig underneath their skin and tear the implant out, they will not deviate from the treatment.
The oral variants of the implant presented major challenges as the addicts would sell their supplies of the medicine to get money to buy other drugs or heroin or the prescription painkillers.
The probuphine’s manufacturer, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, is confident that the implant completely removes the risk.
The development of the probuphine comes at a time when there is an increase of epidemic proportions in the use of opiates that include illegal drugs like heroin alongside prescription painkillers like OxyContin and morphine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate from drug overdoses, often as a result of opiate addiction, spiked significantly between the years 1999 and 2014. It is estimated that drug overdoses, more than car accidents, account for the deaths of 44,000 people in America alone.
Families are despondent as opiate addiction has robbed them of loved ones. At the Advisory panel’s meeting, before recommending for the approval of the implant as a treatment for opiate addiction, many witnesses sorrowfully testified how opiates had wrecked their lives or their families. Two fathers painfully described how their scions succumbed to drug overdoses then, teary, they asked the committee to recommend the approval of proburphine.
Presently there are two other chemicals designed to treat opiate addiction. The chemicals include naltrexone and methadone. In broad strokes, each of the chemicals is suited to different patients and different situations. However, these medications are strictly regulated. For example, you can find methadone only in specialized clinics, where patients must go every day so as to receive a dose. That strict regulation is meant to prevent an overdose on the medication.
Unfortunately, Probuphine will not be for everybody. It is only meant for those who do well with buprenorphine and do not require a high dose. It is best for people who can get along with low, steady level of medicine. That is because, with the insert, it is not possible to change the patient’s dosing.
Other treatments might be more suitable for other people who suffer from opiate addiction. They can try methadone and naltrexone, which, as mentioned above, are suited for different situations and different patients. Already there is optimism among some doctors who feel that the approval of Probuphine will provide a stepping stone towards being medication-free.