Buprenorphine Implant Compared to Daily Pill for Opioid Dependence

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Long-acting buprenorphine implant offers new treatment method
Long-acting buprenorphine implant offers new treatment method

(HealthDay News) — Patients addicted to opioids are more likely to overcome their dependence if they receive a new long-acting implant rather than a daily treatment pill, according to a study published in the July 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The implant, sold under the name Probuphine, is placed in the upper arm of recovering addicts and releases a steady six-month dose of buprenorphine. For the study, half of the 177 patients received four placebo implants and sublingual buprenorphine, while the other half received sublingual placebo and four 80-mg buprenorphine hydrochloride implants.

The researchers found that 85.7 percent of the patients with the functioning implant maintained opioid abstinence during the six-month trial, compared with 71.9 percent of patients taking oral buprenorphine. The six-month implant is more expensive, costing about $4,900 -- or more than $800 a month, lead researcher Richard Rosenthal, M.D., medical director of Mount Sinai Hospital's Center for Addictive Disorders in New York City, told HealthDay. By comparison, buprenorphine pills cost $130 to $190 a month.

"Among adults with opioid dependence maintaining abstinence with a stable dose of sublingual buprenorphine, the use of buprenorphine implants compared with continued sublingual buprenorphine did not result in an inferior likelihood of remaining a responder," the authors write. "However, the study population had an exceptionally high response rate in the control group, and further studies are needed in broader populations to assess the efficacy of buprenorphine implants versus sublingual buprenorphine in other settings."

The trial was funded by Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Probuphine.

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