What to know about a new implant to treat addiction

Dr. Charles Pattavina.

About one person per day died in 2016 due to a drug-related overdose, but doctors are saying a new treatment option called Probuphine, which is an implant, could help lower that number.

Probuphine, which provides a steady, continuous level of buprenorphine, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May 2016.

At that time, the FDA wrote:

Probuphine is designed to provide a constant, low-level dose of buprenorphine for six months in patients who are already stable on low-to-moderate doses of other forms of buprenorphine, as part of a complete treatment program.

Until today, buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence was only approved as a pill or a film placed under the tongue or on the inside of a person’s cheek until it dissolved. While effective, a pill or film may be lost, forgotten or stolen. However, as an implant, Probuphine provides a new treatment option for people in recovery who may value the unique benefits of a six-month implant compared to other forms of buprenorphine, such as the possibility of improved patient convenience from not needing to take medication on a daily basis.

There are a couple things to consider before deciding if it is the best option for a patient, however:

— It’s not a replacement for counseling. “Because people will have six months of treatment … they might not come back for follow up or they might not come in for counseling,” Dr. Charles Pattavina, a St. Joseph Healthcare emergency physician and president of the Maine Medical Association, told WLBZ 2 recently. “Counseling is a very important part of medication based treatment.”

— There’s a cost. “Right now it costs about $210 a week, from what I’ve seen, where you can get suboxone and counseling for about $150 a week,” Pattavina said.

Overall, he said, Probuphine is “another tool.”

Click here to watch the WLBZ spot. Thank you, Dr. Pattavina and WLBZ.