Now fighting opioid abuse: A drug Vivitrol found to prevent relapse; at least $800 a dose

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The Journal Gazette on april 10, 2016 by Rebecca S. Green

It would be nice if there were a silver bullet to treat opioid addiction.

You know, that one thing you can go to time after time, knowing it is going to knock out the problem.

Opioid abuse, including prescription drugs such as oxycodone and illicit narcotics such as heroin, is making headlines here and around the country. And law enforcement, mental health professionals and public health officials are scrambling to address the problem.

One resource could be Vivitrol, a drug given to addicts to prevent relapse with decent efficacy.

It is already in use in Allen County’s Drug Court program, but while results are promising, officials caution the monthly injection is not the be-all, end-all of opioid addiction treatment.

‘Encouraging’

Approved by the FDA in 2010, the drug naltrexone is manufactured by Alkermes under the name Vivi­trol and is used to prevent relapse in opioid addicts. It can cost between $800 and $1,200 per dose.

The once-monthly injection blocks the euphoric effects of opioids for up to 30 days. And it is gaining in popularity within the criminal justice system because it has no known abuse or potential for illicit sale, according to a recent study by the New Eng­land Journal of Medicine.

The study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, began in 2009 and involved about 300 individuals with opioid dependence who were caught up in the criminal justice system in five different locations in the northeast.

About half the group was given the usual treatment, such as brief counseling and referral to community-based programs, and the other half received extended-release naltrexone in addition to usual drug treatment over 24 weeks.

According to the study, 74 percent of the urine screens of those on Vivitrol were negative for opioids and 71 percent of those same patients showed confirmed abstinence from the drugs at two-week intervals.