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Jan 13, 2016 7:37 PM

Changing Families: FDA considers implant to treat opioid addiction

A medical panel is urging the Food and Drug Administration to approve a new way of treating opioid addiction - with an implant.

The implant, Probuphine, is roughly the size of a matchstick and is implanted into the arm. It delivers daily doses of buprenorphine for a six-month period.

Buprenorphine is marketed under the brand name Suboxone. It's a partial synthetic opioid and is one of the most common medical treatments for addicts. In controlled doses, Suboxone can help the body withdraw from heroin and addiction pain killers, but can also be addictive itself.

Right now the medicine is taken orally requiring those suffering from addiction to manage their daily dosages themselves. That's a problem- a problem the implant would eliminate.

But there's also a major downside. You can't adjust the daily dosage, something doctors say is often needed in the early stages of treatment. And if that's the case, it would require giving additional oral supplies and defeating the purpose of the implant.

The advisory panel voted Tuesday 12 to 5 to recommend approval. No word on when an FDA decision might come down or how long it would be before the implant would be available.

Last year, there were at least 385 drug overdose deaths in New Hampshire. That number will likely rise since it doesn't include 45 pending cases.

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