Earlier this month, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA). Part of this new legislation concerns treating opioid addiction, and the changes to the law make it a lot easier to offer treatment that itself involves medication.
Previously, doctors could only prescribe treatment drugs to 100 patients per year. While those caps haven’t been explicitly raised, the rules have changed so that the limit only applies to patients who take their medication home. This means that many more patients can be directly treated in the doctor’s office.
CARA also allows another innovation that will work in conjunction with the relaxation of treatment law: drug implants.
The buprenorphine implants, which come from Princeton, New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, are marketed under the name Probuphine. Probuphine is designed to be used on patients who have already proved to be stable on long-term, low-dosage buprenorphine products. Once implanted, by one of currently 1,100 health care providers in 44 states, the implants supply a low dose for up to six months.
The implants, which were themselves only recently approved by the FDA, are inserted into the upper arm, where they work on the same principle as nicotine patches, keeping the body juiced while the user breaks the physical habits of administering the drug themselves.
Such a treatment, in conjunction with counseling and a recovery program, could prove very effective. The implants come with their own risks, of course, including the possibility of some serious complications from insertion and removal, but then, the drug habit that it’s curing is killing people all over the country.