By Martha Bebinger, WBUR
Kaiser Health News
Amid a raging opioid epidemic, many doctors and families in the U.S. have been pleading for better treatment alternatives.
One option now under consideration by the Food and Drug Administration is a system of implanted rods that offer controlled release of buprenorphine — a drug already used in other forms to treat opioid addiction.
Because it’s implanted in the skin, this version of the drug can’t easily be sold on the illegal market, proponents say — a key treatment advantage. The FDA is expected to decide whether to approve the device — called Probuphine — within a week.
The implant system includes four rods, each about the size of a match stick, explained Dave, a paramedic in a small town outside of Boston; he was one of the patients recruited to test the device last year. Dave’s worried about reprisal if co-workers find out he is addicted to opioid pain pills, so NPR agreed to use only his first name.
“My implants were placed in my left arm, just above my elbow on the inside,” he explained. He’s been in recovery for four years — previously with the help of daily buprenorphine pills. Last year, he agreed to be part of an experiment that delivered regular doses of the drug to him via an implant instead. He’s sold on the new approach.
“I felt completely normal all the time,” he said. Continue reading