There is new hope for people suffering from opioid addiction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Probuphine, the first implantable drug for the treatment of opioid dependence.
It contains buprenorphine, a drug which has been used in medication-assisted treatment of opiate addiction for many years. The new treatment method is expected to become available this month.
Previously, Probuphine was only approved as a pill or as a soluble film to be placed in the mouth. The new implantable version consists of four, one-inch rods that are placed under the skin. That makes Probuphine the first treatment for opioid dependence that delivers buprenorphine continuously for six months.
It is welcome news when many Americans are addicted to opioid pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called Probuphine a “game changer” on her blog, describing the subdermal implant as “a valuable new therapeutic tool.”
The big advantage of the implant is that patients don’t have to remember to take their medication on time as it will be automatically administered over several months. There is also less opportunity for illicit use. The implanted rods cannot get lost, stolen, and illegally resold on the street.
"Opioid abuse and addiction have taken a devastating toll on American families. We must do everything we can to make new, innovative treatment options available that can help patients regain control over their lives,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf.
"Now that the FDA has approved Probuphine, Braeburn's top priorities are to train and certify healthcare providers to make Probuphine available to patients across the country and to establish insurance coverage as quickly as possible," said Braeburn President and CEO Behshad Sheldon.
Gary Hees is Vice President of Professional Relations at Decision Point Center. He is cautiously optimistic about the new treatment option.
“The announcement of a six-month duration Probuphine implant is great news for those who truly need that kind of support. It will eliminate the need for daily maintenance dosages which is actually a duplication of the pattern of usage of illicit substances.”
It should not be seen as a panacea, though. “We have to remember that the key to effective treatment is never a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but thorough assessment and evaluation leading to focused, individualized treatment,” says Hees.