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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Probuphine, the first buprenorphine implant for the maintenance treatment of opioid dependence. 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. An independent FDA advisory committee supported the approval of Probuphine in a meeting held earlier this year.
Probuphine should be used as part of a complete treatment program that includes counseling and psychosocial support. Probuphine consists of four, one-inch-long rods that are implanted under the skin on the inside of the upper arm and provide treatment for six months. Administering Probuphine requires specific training because it must be surgically inserted and removed. Only a health care provider who has completed the training and become certified through a restricted program called the Probuphine Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program should insert and remove the implants. If further treatment is needed, new implants may be inserted in the opposite arm for one additional course of treatment. The FDA is requiring postmarketing studies to establish the safety and feasibility of placing the Probuphine implants for additional courses of treatment.
The most common side effects from treatment with Probuphine include implant-site pain, itching, and redness, as well as headache, depression, constipation, nausea, vomiting, back pain, toothache and oropharyngeal pain. The safety and efficacy of Probuphine have not been established in children or adolescents less than 16 years of age. Clinical studies of Probuphine did not include participants over the age of 65.
Probuphine has a boxed warning that provides important safety information for health care professionals, including a warning that insertion and removal of Probuphine are associated with the risk of implant migration, protrusion, expulsion and nerve damage resulting from the procedure. Probuphine must be prescribed and dispensed according to the Probuphine REMS program because of the risks of surgical complications and because of the risks of accidental overdose, misuse and abuse if an implant comes out or protrudes from the skin. As part of this program, Probuphine can only be prescribed and dispensed by health care providers who are certified with the REMS program and have completed live training, among other requirements.
Probuphine implants contain a significant amount of drug that can potentially be expelled or removed, resulting in the potential for accidental exposure or intentional misuse and abuse if the implant comes out of the skin. Patients should be seen during the first week after insertion and a visit schedule of no less than once-monthly is recommended for continued counseling and psychosocial support.
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