Panel recommends FDA approve implant to treat opiate addiction

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USA Today on 01/12/2016 by Liz Szabo

An advisory committee recommended Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve an implant designed to reduce addicts’ cravings for heroin or prescription painkillers.

The implant, probuphine, provides a steady dose of buprenorphine, which has been shown to ease withdrawal symptoms, decrease cravings and cut the risk of relapse. Buprenorphine is currently available only as a pill or dissolvable film that’s placed under the tongue. Although it can be life-saving, it carries major risks: some addicts sell their supplies to get money for other drugs.

Probuphine’s manufacturer, New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, says the implant eliminates that risk. The FDA typically follows committees’ advice.

Probuphine’s development comes at a time when addiction to opiates — which include illegal drugs such as heroin, as well as prescription painkillers such as morphine and OxyContin — has been called an epidemic.

The death rate from drug overdoses more than doubled from 1999 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug overdoses now kill 44,000 Americans a year – more than car accidents.