Buprenorphine has been hailed by many as a wonder drug for helping treat opiate addiction, although not everyone feels that way. For some, it is simply a substitute that carries its own risks of abuse, and doesn’t ultimately result in abstinence. For others, it is a useful and effective tool that has helped them overcome one of the most challenging and destructive health threats today: opiate addiction.
However people feel about it, buprenorphine, also sold under the trade name Suboxone, has been saving lives and helping people who were previously incapacitated due to their addiction begin to piece their lives back together and begin the process of recovery.
Problems with Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine doesn’t come without issues, though. It’s still a drug. It can be abused. It can be sold or given to someone whom it isn’t prescribed. You can use too much, resulting in an overdose. Although it is designed to minimize cravings and withdrawal symptoms, people can still choose to take other drugs, stop taking the buprenorphine even though they are supposed to take it and decide to just get high on something else instead. In other words, it isn’t a perfect cure. Other concerns are that children can find and ingest buprenorphine, either accidentally, or intentionally. In order to obtain buprenorphine, you need to go to regular doctor appointments and make weekly or monthly visits to a pharmacy.
So what if there was a way to eliminate virtually all of the issues mentioned above?
Enter Probuphine. A buprenorphine implant that delivers a measured, steady dose of the drug and lasts for six months. Initially rejected by the FDA despite overwhelming support, the FDA has recently approved the submittal of a new application and will go under review again in late February 2016.
Pros of the Probuphine Subdermal Implant
Perhaps one of the biggest pros of Probuphine is the fact that it is virtually tamper and abuse proof. The dosage is set and delivered for six months. The recipient cannot lose, sell or take too much of it. It cannot be stolen or accidentally found or ingested by a child.
Next, it reduces the need to have frequent doctor or pharmacy visits. This makes it ideal for those who are living in rural areas who previously may not have had easy access to buprenorphine.
For those who travel frequently, Probuphine is ideal. It is also a good solution for those who are going to or are already in jail.
Probuphine removes many typical patient compliance issues as well as the daily act of taking medication or needing to obtain medication. For people who have been addicted to prescription medications, these activities can be a trigger. In this way, probuphine can be a huge help for those trying to change behavior and habits.
Cons of the Probuphine Subdermal Implant
However, for people who wish to taper off buprenorphine in a shorter period of time, Probuphine doesn’t work. Additionally, if someone wishes to discontinue using the drug, they have to get the implant removed.
People who take buprenorphine often need to adjust their dosage, particularly in the beginning. Of course, this isn’t possible with the implant.
Sometimes, people still struggle with cravings and the urge to use. In these cases they may opt out of buprenorphine and take something else instead. Probuphine removes that option. While on the surface this may sound like a good thing, there is always the chance a person may just go ahead and use anyway, which can pose serious problems.
Finally, while the reduced need for frequent doctor visits may be an advantage for some, for others this may mean a loss in additional counseling and care. They may no longer feel the need to go in for weekly check-ins or group sessions since they no longer have to show up to get their medication. The process may then become less about treatment and more about managing.
More to Come
If Probuphine gets FDA approval, it will certainly be interesting to see what the outcome is. Ideally, people who use it will also receive the counseling and treatment needed to help them truly recover from addiction. Price is another question. Will it be affordable or covered by insurance? Hopefully, it will prove to be an accessible treatment option for anyone who needs help in breaking free from opiate addiction.