According to the CDC, 40 Americans die of a prescription opioid overdose every day. As lawmakers and health officials scramble to combat the intensifying epidemic, one drug company has medication waiting for FDA approval that could help cut down on some of the illicit drug use. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Currently, there are just two options for those struggling with opioid addiction; Methadone, which can only be administered at a federally sanctioned clinic and Buprenorphine, which can be prescribed by a physician but opens the door to abuse.
"It’s a life saver, it’s an amazing medication. But there’s diversion, there’s accidental exposure, people have access, they shouldn’t and accidentally ingest them," says Dr. Richard Rosenthal, Medical Director of Addiction Services at Mount Sinai Behavioral Health System.
Dr. Rosenthal has lead clinical trials on a Titan Pharmaceuticals drug now being considered for FDA approval this year. Called Probuphine it's a matchstick-size rod that's implanted under the skin, similar to contraceptive implants.
Rosenthal says the benefits go beyond eliminating the chance for the drug to end up in the wrong hands.
"The idea of the route of administration makes a difference. If you take something every morning or twice a day sublingually under your tongue you may forget, you may not be able to get to it. So you now have eliminated essentially the adherence issue," he said.
The most common side effects associated with Probuphine is headache, constipation and dry mouth. It's simply a different way to take Buprenorphine, which works similarly to methadone.
"It sort of quells the need to take any other opioid because the receptors are all bound. If the receptors are bound and you do use other drugs, other opioid drugs they don’t have any effect," Rosenthal said.
Probuphine dissolves inside the skin over six months, slowly releasing medication in even doses.
Rosenthal's study found 96 percent of patients on Probuphine were able to stay away from opioids, compared to 87.5 percent of those taking Buprenorphine orally.
"This to me was a no brainer because it’s a medication we already know works. I think that it will contribute," Rosenthal said.