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FDA Greenlights Implant to Treat Opioid Addiction

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rubber stamped a potentially revolutionary alternative to conventional treatment methods for opioid addiction. A possible answer to the growing epidemic of addiction plaguing the United States, the implant called Probuphine releases measured doses of buprenorphine from within the patient’s arm and has shown great potential in minimizing cravings and the side-effects of opioid withdrawal. In other words, it could be what America has been looking for in its fight against opioid addiction.

treat-opioid-addiction

Previously only available in pill form, buprenorphine is released by the implant over the course of six months. The Obama administration made clear its intent to intensify the war on opioid addiction, recently issuing an urgent call to big-pharma to focus greater efforts on making anti-addiction drugs more available, while at the same time making opioids and opioid substitutes more difficult for addicts to use.

“Opioid abuse and addiction have taken a devastating toll on American families,” said Dr. Robert M. Califf, FDA commissioner, in a press statement. “We must do everything we can to make new, innovative treatment options available that can help patients regain control over their lives.”

He called the device the “first-ever implantable option” with the potential to help patients ensure their treatment is both accurately measured and flawlessly consistent. Along with ensuring that daily doses of buprenorphine are not missed, the implant will make it impossible for patients to stockpile and sell their treatment drugs to others – thus addressing another problem of epidemic proportions.

Critics are however likely to suggest that the implant will further encourage addicts to opt for a treatment route that amounts to treating drug addiction with another drug, rather than attempting outright abstinence.

The treatment still may fuel controversy from those who favor abstinence treatment and consider anti-addiction drugs substituting one drug for another. As far as the FDA is concerned, the very best approach to curbing both addiction and illegal opioid use is to ramp up availability and affordability of drug-based addiction treatment.

“Scientific evidence suggests that maintenance treatment with these medications in the context of behavioral treatment and recovery support are more effective in the treatment of opioid-use disorder than short-term detoxification programs aimed at abstinence,” commented Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

According to the CDC prescription opioid overdose deaths have increase more than 400% since 1999, while up to 2 million Americans were known to be addicted to the drugs as of 2014. Federal statistics state that at least 60% of all drug overdose deaths in the United States involve opioids.

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