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Buprenorphine Dispensing Implant for Opioid Addictions

One of the oral forms of buprenorphine

(Mirror Daily, United States) – The medical world, much like other industries focused on progress, doesn’t really stop to consider the fact that if something can be done, it doesn’t necessarily mean it should be done. For example, a team of researchers from New Jersey created a buprenorphine dispensing implant for opioid addictions.

Buprenorphine, for those unfamiliar with the substance, is a semisynthetic opioid medicine generally used by opioid addicts, which is used to reduce cravings, lessen withdrawal symptoms, and even cut the risk of relapse in recovering addicts.

Less strong than methadone, buprenorphine is one of the most commonly used opioid addiction medications, although its current pill forms are quite easy to be taken advantage of.

This is done either by overindulging in the medicine, even overdosing, and by selling the prescribed pills in order to buy other, stronger opioids, like heroin.

The team from New Jersey’s Braeburn Pharmaceuticals developed a device that slowly, over time, oozes a steady stream of the buprenorphine into the patient’s bloodstream, reducing the need for the potentially abusable medicine.

Being sent back to the research table twice because of insufficient evidence in favor of the device’s benefits, the team eventually provided enough evidence to be approved by the FDA with a 12 to 5 vote.

In the form of 4 different rods, thinner and shorter than a matchstick, the devices are implanted subdermally in the user’s body, leading to a steady supply of the addiction drug.

Despite all of its potential, the device also has its flaws, flaws which didn’t go unnoticed or uncommented by the FDA.

The main problem with probuphine, as the device is called, is that the four rods of which it consists can secrete the medicine for up to 6 months.

Since most recovering opioid addicts need more than 6 months to be over their addiction, and since the device can only supply a limited amount of the drug without risk of overdose, the recovering addicts’ physicians will in most cases also have to prescribe oral forms of buprenorphine to go with the device, making it kind of redundant.

Other limitations would be that since oral supplements would have to accompany the device, it would make the drug much more easily abusable.

Another concern brought on by one of the 5 members of the FDA committee that were against the approval of the probuphine was that what this move does is to support the tendency of going for invasive procedures over non-invasive ones that has caught on over the past decade.

Image source: Wikimedia

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