New form of heroin addiction medication could be approved next week

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A new medication that could help people fight opioid addiction could be approved by the FDA next week.

Probuphine, developed by Titan Pharmaceuticals and Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, comes in the form of a small rod which is implanted into a patient’s arm.

“This is four little rods about two and a half centimeters long each. And they actually sit in a little fan-shaped pattern. They go right in the inside aspect of your arm,” Dr. Michael Frost told WGHP’s sister station WTIC.

Dr. Frost helped test Probuphine on patients over the last two years. “The most recent studies we've done showed it was extremely effective.”

The medication, Buprenorphine, is released constantly over six months. Buprenorphine has been on the market for a decade and is already used in pill form.

“With the turbulence that often accompanies active addiction, and mostly homelessness- maintaining that prescription, remembering to take it, remembering where it is, that's a huge issue,” explained Ralph Rodland.

Rodland is the executive director of Caring Services in High Point. They offer treatment and housing options for people choosing recovery.

He says if medication is part of a recovering patient’s treatment program, there is definitely an appeal to be able to implant it.

“I'm thrilled to see that they've come up with something that has a longer duration of delivery of the medication, so it's very promising. I'm encouraged they're moving forward with approval,” said Rodland.

An FDA Advisory committee voted to approve Probuphine. A final approval decision from the FDA is expected next week.

FOX8 also spoke to Thom Elmore, the executive director at the Addiction Recovery Care Association, Inc. (ARCA) in Winston-Salem.

Elmore agreed, “One of the biggest pluses you have here is a way of being assured patients are getting the recommended dosage 24/7. The chances of it being misused or diverted to someone who shouldn’t have it are eliminated.”

Elmore said ARCA is dedicated to the most practical and ethical solutions to the current opioid epidemic they deal with every day.

Rodland did point out that many of the people he works with who are struggling with addiction are uninsured and don’t have much money.

“The issue is that even with the pill form we have significant difficulties, if not all out failures, in accessing it." He continued, "Funding, of course, remains one of the biggest problems there. However, looking at it from a big picture, I'm very glad they are focusing on this issue and focusing on issues of substance abuse disorders where medications can be very, very effective.”

He hopes patients who would benefit from Probuphine will find a way to access and afford it.

For more information about Probuphine from the FDA, click here.

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