Probuphine: New Opioid Treatment Drug Approved by FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a new implantable treatment for opioid addiction, Probuphine, according to ABC News.           

The implant, comprised of four match-size rods, is inserted beneath the skin. The opioid treatment releases a milder dose of an opioid treatment drug known as buprenorphine for six months.        

Buprenorphine was initially approved as a pill of film placed on a person’s cheek or tongue until it dissolved. In a press release, the FDA says clients will benefit from the convenience of a buprenorphine implant that will control their cravings instead of taking a daily dosage of the medication. 

FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., said in the release that the approval, made in May 2016, “provides the first-ever implantable option to support patients’ efforts to maintain treatment as part of their overall recovery program.”              

With opioid addictions affecting about 2.5 million Americans, Probuphine is a part of the expansion of the medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT is a “comprehensive approach” that combines approved medications, buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, with behavioral therapy to treat opioid use disorder.           

“Scientific evidence suggests that maintenance treatment with these medications…are more effective in the treatment of opioid use disorder than short-term detoxification programs aimed at abstinence,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

Probuphine vs. Methadone Maintenance          

Methadone maintenance is a preventative method used on recovering opioid addicts. Unlike the Probuphine implant, methadone maintenance is a long-term alternative to opioid addiction. Methadone is taken orally and blocks the opioid receptors in the brain to create an opioid tolerance or the recovering addict. Methadone also alleviates symptoms of opioid withdrawals.           

According to Canada’s Mental Health & Addiction Network (CAMH), methadone is dispensed in liquid form and works to reduce opioid cravings, to not induce intoxication, and to reduce the euphoric effects of other opioids, such as heroin.           

CAMH also reported that methadone maintenance is longer-lasting than other opioids, such as heroin. This is useful because a longer-acting opioid, such as methadone, can stop the use of a shorter-acting opioid. For example, methadone lasts from 24 to 36 hours, whereas the effects of heroin usually last from three to six hours. Therefore, methadone maintenance reduces the cravings for heroin, which is often injected several times a day.         

MAT also helps with:

  •         Mortality
  •         High-risk behavior that places a person at risk for transmitted diseases
  •         Criminal activity
  •         Physical and mental health
  •         Social functioning
  •         Success in treatment programs

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2011 the number of clients receiving methadone treatment accounted for almost 25 percent of all substance abuse clients in treatment programs.

The survey also found the number of clients receiving methadone treatment increased from about 230,000 clients in 2003 to more than 306,000 clients in 2011.

The major difference between Probuphine and methadone is that Probuphine is recommended for clients who are already stable on low-to-moderate doses of buprenorphine, according to the FDA, while methadone is for clients who have a history of failed recovery attempts from opioid addictions. Probuphine is inserted by a medical physician and is not a long-term treatment, while methadone maintenance can sometimes be lifelong for recovering addicts who experience severe pain from opioid withdrawals.

Dealing with Opioid Addiction

As the nation begins to address the growing opioid epidemic, more researchers are beginning to notice a pattern between clients who are using an opioid treatment drug versus clients who are trying to maintain abstinence.

Dr. Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychiatrist who served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control, told ABC News that opioid treatment drugs, such as Probuphine, allows the client not to be controlled by their addiction.

“’Anyone who’s gone through addiction knows that motivation fluctuates day to day. This allows a person to decide for their future self,’” Humphreys said.  

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), 44 people in the US die from a prescription pill overdose. The statistic also found that 1 in 9 youths, or 11.4 percent of young people ages 12 to 25, used prescription drugs nonmedically within the past year.

Opioid addictions are also starting to grow among women. According to HHS, about 18 women die every day from a prescription drug overdose. In 2010, more than 6,600 women died from an opioid overdose.

With the intervention of opioid maintenance drugs, families across the nation can have a second chance at mending relationships destroyed by addiction.

Although the FDA advisory report raised concerns about the very few surgically trained buprenorphine doctors, the implant has been tested and proved just as effective as the oral medication.

Yet, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, the San Francisco-based company marketing Probuphine, plans to make the treatment drug available to everyone. The drug will cost clients less than $1,000 a month, according to ABC News.  

Sarah Wilson, a mother of four who participated in the trial of Probuphine, told ABC News that the implant has already had a positive effect on her life as she no longer worries about when the treatment drug is going to wear off.

“I went from existing to living,” Wilson said in the article.

Seeking Treatment

Opioid addictions are one of the most life-threatening addictions for a multitude of people.

Different treatment options, such as inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, are available to target and address behavioral health problems and fatal health problems caused by an addiction.

Inpatient treatment is usually recommended for clients with a more severe addiction. Inpatient facilities include detox, counseling, and medically supervised medication intake to wean clients off their addiction away from the temptation of their environment. Outpatient treatment is a less extensive program that is recommended for clients with a less severe addiction. Outpatient facilities combine therapeutic practices with medical intervention to help the client recover from an addiction while functioning at work or in their household.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an opioid addiction, then reach out to our specialist to ask about opioid drug treatment options. Call our 24-7 hotline at 1-888-220-4352 to begin a new phase in life that is not controlled by an opioid addiction.

Staff Writer :