Probuphine is an opiate addiction treatment implant in an experimental phase of development. It contains buprenorphine, the chemical found in current oral maintenance and taper drug treatments for opiate and opioid addictions like Suboxone and Subutex. The Probuphine implant, which is subdermally implanted into a patient’s upper arm, delivers daily doses of buprenorphine for the course of six months. This medication prevents the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with opiates. It will also render heroin and prescription opioids ineffective when they are used by the patient.
The implant itself is a small, thin, cylindrical rod that is placed under the skin in the upper arm area during a doctor’s visit. The implantation is a basic and relatively painless office procedure.
Suboxone and Subutex, the forms of buprenorphine which are taken orally, have presented some difficulties. Patients may skip doses or miss their doses accidentally. They may discontinue use of the medication and revert back to abusing opiates. Using the implant will be useful in that a patient will be unable to skip or miss doses or stop taking the medication altogether. An addict may behave impulsively and stop taking buprenorphine by its oral method to purposefully return to their drug of choice. In the form of an implant, Probuphine will protect the patients from their own impulsive decisions. In addition, if the patient ends up somewhere where they may not have access to their medications, like jail, or a rehab center, they won’t have to worry about interruptions in the course of their medication.
Probuphine was developed by Titan Pharmaceuticals in accordance with new FDA guidance to strive to create abuse-resistant medicines. At the end of April 2015, the FDA did not grant its approval for Probuphine in the form it was in at that time. After further research and development the FDA has accepted a re-submission of Probuphine for consideration. It is now currently pending an approval.
The problem of the growing opiate and opioid addiction crisis isn’t going to go away on its own. There is a dire need to approach the issue in innovative ways. The latest estimations approximate that there are over 2 million Americans with an opiate or opioid addiction. They’re using illicit drugs like heroin. They’re also abusing pharmaceutical grade opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. There are many factors that contributed to the development of this addiction epidemic. Can it be said that it will be up to the pharmaceutical industry to address and solve a problem which the pharmaceutical industry had a strong hand in creating? Time will tell.