There’s a new tool in the fight against the nation’s raging opioid epidemic.
The FDA on Thursday approved an implantable version of the drug buprenorphine, which staves off opioid cravings. Labels for the new device are rolling off printing devices today, and trainings begin Saturday for doctors who want to learn to insert the four matchstick size rods into patients.
The implant, called Probuphine, is expected to be available by the end of June.
“This is just the starting point for us to continue to fight for the cause of patients with opioid addiction,” said Braeburn Pharmaceuticals CEO Behshad Sheldon.
But one day after the FDA approved this first long-acting delivery method for buprenorphine, debate continues about how effective the implant will be and whether insurers will cover it.
A Game Changer … Or Set Up For Failure?
The head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls the new implant a game-changer because it will help addiction patients stay on their meds while their brain circuits recover from the ravages of drug use. And addiction experts say it will be much harder for patients prescribed the implant to sell their medication on the street, which is a problem for addiction patients prescribed pills.
“I think it’s fantastic news,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorder Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We need as many tools in the toolbox as possible to deal with the opioid epidemic.”