Opiate addiction treatment not being used enough, but why?
An FDA-approved treatment for those addicted to painkiller drugs, heroin--even alcohol--isn't being used as much as standard methadone treatments.
In Maine, clinics that are offering the once-a-month shot, Vivitrol, aren't seeing people taking advantage of it. But why?
Old drug gets a new makeover
Vivitrol has been on the market for over two years, but the monthly-shot delivery method is a new approach as of 2010. It has been used to treat alcoholism since 2006.
“Vivitrol is nothing new. It’s just a chemical in a delivery form that is new,” Dr. Joseph Py, corporate medical director for Discovery House in Maine.
The drug works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, which means that after a Vivitrol injection, an addict couldn't physically get high by taking their drug of choice. It's different than methadone in that methadone actually fulfills opiate cravings--without giving a person a euphoric high. While methadone has been shown to be successful in treating drug addicts, it's also a substance that ends up being sold on the streets.
Can Vivitrol stack up?
The problem with Vivitrol, medical professionals say, is that many people who come to methadone clinics are going through physically horrific withdrawals--and that Vivitrol can't help those symptoms in the way methadone can. Patients must also be opiate-free for at least one week before starting a course of Vivitrol treatment--a hard feat for the addicts that might benefit from the drug the most.
Vivitrol is also expensive, ringing up at about $1,500 a treatment.
"I don’t see how that can be justified. Methadone is much cheaper," said Dr. Vijay Amarendran, a psychiatrist at The Acadia Hospital in Bangor, which operates one of Maine's methadone clinics.
Medical professionals note that because the Vivitrol monthly treatment is relatively new, more time is needed to assess how helpful it might be for addicts. It seems some clinics in Maine won't adopt the new treatment until it has been through a year-long pilot test in other areas.
Source: Bangor Daily News