In the latest attempt to curb nationwide prescription opioid and heroin abuse, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first-ever buprenorphine implant for use in treatment. Probuphine provides a constant flow of buprenorphine at a low dose for six months. The Probuphine implant is designated for patients who have already been medically stabilized through other forms of buprenorphine treatment. It is not mean to take the place of a comprehensive treatment program, which includes detox, counseling, and rehab. The approval represents a significant step in stemming the tide of prescription painkiller and subsequent heroin dependency that has consumed Long Island and the United States.
Probuphine’s initial rollout was delayed due to congressional review of the FDA opioid approval process, and after being put before the agency on two separate occasions. Approval was actually recommended three years ago by the FDA’s advisory committee but was rejected due to the premature and minimal testing of the drug. Recommendation for approval came after only one clinical study, which some claim was flawed. Many opponents of Probuphine say that there’s no indication what addicts will do after the six months is up, and that many need more than half a year to achieve abstinence. Others have voiced various concerns over the invasive nature of the procedure, as well as patients’ privacy.
The FDA Advisory Committee cites numerous advantages of Probuphine, including that it cannot be diverted, stolen, sold, lost or abruptly ceased by the patient. As more and more Long Island residents and addicts all over the country continue to struggle with their dependency, resources like Probuphine could prove to be a game-changer in the pursuit of ongoing recovery and relapse-avoidance. Wherever one falls in this debate, it is imperative that more solutions be explored to combat this ongoing and increasingly deadly problem.