January 26, 2016

New Implant to Fight Opioids Proposed

Cost Containment
, Network Solutions
, Pharmacy

On January 12, an advisory committee recommended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve a new implant designed to help reduce opioid dependence by delivering a dose of buprenorphine – which has been shown to curb withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings – every day for up to six months.

Probuphine, the name of the implant, was developed by Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Braeburn Pharmaceuticals and is surgically inserted into the patient’s arm. Probuphine is a version of buprenorphine, which is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance by federal law.

Some addiction specialists are concerned about the safety of probuphine, according to an article in USA Today by Liz Szabo published on January 12.

Tracy Rupp, a pharmacist and the Director of Public Health Policy Initiatives at the National Center for Health Research, was quoted in USA Today, stating concerns regarding how doctors will safely transition patients from buprenorphine films to the implant, as well as what she felt was a lack of demographic diversity in the data sample, according to the article.

In a recent Business Insurance article, Stephanie Goldberg identified that the implant is also raising concerns in the workers’ compensation industry.

Some industry executives identify that while buprenorphine is added to a patient’s treatment to discontinue opioid use, it can often stay long term, rather than be discontinued. This could potentially mean a long-term expense for industry payors. There are also comparisons between using buprenorphine versus naturally tapering a patient off of a drug, and which is the better treatment method.

The FDA will have to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision, scheduled to take place by Feb. 27. They are not required to follow the committee’s recommendation.

Visit Business Insurance’s website to read the article in its entirety, “Opioid-Fighting Implant Raises Workers Comp Cost Concerns.”