Probuphine: An Alternative to Daily Pills?

Pharmaceutical companies continually strive to find the most effective and least bothersome medications for patients.

Titan Pharmaceuticals has introduced a new drug for those who suffer from opioid addiction. The drug, Probuphine, will get Priority Review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this spring.

Experts estimate that nearly 750,000 Americans are on medication for opioid addiction. The approval of Probuphine would allow the estimated 2.3 million opioid addicts in the U.S. an alternative medication that may be more effective for their lifestyle.

From Daily Treatment to Bi-annual Treatment

When specialists help patients treat their opioid addiction, they gradually reduce the opioid in the patients’ systems. Currently, many people are using tablets of Buprenorphine, a partial mu opioid receptor agonist/antagonist, for their opioid addiction. Patients must take the tablets each day for the drug to work at a consistent rate. In 2011, sales of Buprenorphine reached $1.3 billion.

Probuphine would offer patients a simple and safe way to take their Buprenorphine. Rather than a daily dose, Probuphine is dispensed every six months. It is placed under the skin, usually in the upper arm, and delivers the drug slowly, consistently, and safely to the body over the months. As Probuphine delivers Buprenorphine continuously into the blood, it helps prevent cravings for opioids and could possibly reduce addiction.

Searching for Safety and Efficacy

As prescription drug abuse numbers climb, physicians search for the safest and most effective ways of prescribing medicine to their patients. Multiple clinical trials have affirmed that Probuphine is safe and effective for fighting opioid addiction. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that in a study of 163 people, patients had improved with the use of Probuphine over 24 weeks of therapy. A different study involved 287 participants who were given either Probuphine or a placebo. This study also confirmed that Probuphine was effective in treating those with opioid addictions.

Some experts believe that this subcutaneous delivery of medication can help a patient receive their medication more safely and effectively than if they were taking oral medication on their own. Probuphine is given to the patient in the doctor’s office in a short office visit. Oral Buprenorphine must be taken daily by the patient.

Any time medicine is taken at home there are risks for over-medicating or under-medicating. Missed pills or pills taken at irregular intervals may not dispense the drug as uniformly but is uninterrupted as an implant. Other patients may abuse the prescription by taking more pills than they need or even sharing the pills with others who do not have a prescription.

If approved this spring, an estimated 2.3 million Americans with opioid addiction will have the chance to see if Probuphine works for them.

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