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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

FDA Approves Probuphine

Buprenorphine, sold under the brand name Suboxone or Subutex, has been used for a number of years now for the treatment of opioid addiction. While the drug has proven to be a vital resource to stem the tide of opioid withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse, Suboxone is often times diverted by those for whom prescribed and abused by others. It is important to keep in mind that buprenorphine is a partial agonist opioid receptor modulator, and can have euphoric effects.

The American opioid epidemic has brought about a call to action from a number of health agencies and organizations to utilize the drug in an attempt to mitigate a crisis that leads to a significant number of relapses everyday across the country. When taken as prescribed the drug can be quite effective, but as was mentioned before the drug is commonly diverted. What’s more, if a person prescribed the drug forgets to take their medication, they put themselves at risk of relapse.

There is a failsafe built into Suboxone, the drug contains naloxone. You may be familiar with naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan—most commonly used to reverse the life threatening side effects of an opioid overdose. It essentially causes overdose victims to experience instant opioid withdrawal, and while it is painful it can be life saving.

Somebody prescribed Suboxone is likely to avoid using a prescription opioid painkiller or heroin, due to the presence of naloxone. What’s more, when Suboxone is used as prescribed the naloxone essentially lies dormant, but if someone were to use Suboxone in ways other than intended—such as intravenously—the naloxone becomes fully activated and the user will experience a full state of withdrawal.

Forgetting to take Suboxone will result in the return of cravings in a relatively short period of time, in an attempt to prevent both drug diversion and irregular buprenorphine use—a new injectable form of buprenorphine has been developed known as Probuphine. Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Probuphine, which will provide a constant, low-level dose of buprenorphine for up to six months, according to a FDA news release.

“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,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “This product will expand the treatment alternatives available to people suffering from an opioid use disorder.”

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