That small stick in the image above might look like a fat toothpick or a part of a toy that broke off, but its much, much more than that. It’s called Probuphine, and it’s the first implant treatment for opioid addiction that got the FDA’s blessing. Opioid dependence is a huge problem today, especially since opioids encompass not just illegal substances like heroin, but also legal pain killers, such as those prescribed after surgery.
FDA OKs first implant treatment for opioid addiction
If you choose to stop taking opioids after some time of using them regularly, you experience withdrawals. Probuphine was designed to release small doses of buprenorphine — a medication used to combat addiction to opioids — for six months to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Since buprenorphine itself is an opioid derivative, it targets the same parts of the brain that pain killers and heroin do, thereby stopping you from craving them.
The full Probuphine treatment involves implanting four of these small rods under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. But in exchange, you won’t have to take pills anymore. The downside? It won’t be cheap.
When the company announced the treatment’s successful phase 3 trial, it said that it will cost around $1,500 per procedure upon launch.* If you still need its help after six months, you can a get new set of implants, though that will obviously cost more money.
Since this treatment option involves some form of surgery, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals will have to train doctors for the procedure. According to Business Insider, some doctors will begin their training as soon as this Memorial Day weekend, while Probuphine itself will be available on June 21st.
*Update: A company spokesperson tells us it won’t cost $1,500. According to CEO Behshad Sheldon:
“The Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) for Probuphine is $825/month; for apples to apples comparison, WAC for Vivitrol is $1309/month. Please note that it’s not wholesalers though who receive Probuphine; it’s doctors.”