Alkermes - Maker of Powerful Opioid Zohydro - Lobbies Hard for Its Expensive Treatment for Addiction! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

The [reminder ads] have been popping up on billboards, buses and subways and in glossy magazines, with portraits of attractive men and women and a simple question in bold letters: What is Vivitrol?

 

Five years ago, Vivitrol was a treatment for opioid addiction that was struggling to find a market. Now, its sales and profile are rising fast, thanks to its manufacturers’ shrewd use of political connections, and despite scant science to prove the drug’s efficacy.

 

Last month, the health and human services secretary, Tom Price, praised it as the future of opioid addiction treatment after visiting the company’s plant in Ohio. He set off a furor among substance abuse specialists by criticizing its less expensive and more widely used and rigorously studied competitors, buprenorphine and methadone, as medications that “simply substitute” for illicit drugs.

 

It was the kind of plug that Vivitrol’s maker, Alkermes (the producer of a powerful new opioid called Zohydro), has spent years coaxing, with a deft lobbying strategy that has targeted lawmakers and law enforcement officials. The company has spent millions of dollars on contributions to officials struggling to stem the epidemic of opioid abuse. It has also provided thousands of free doses to encourage the use of Vivitrol in jails and prisons, which have by default become major detox centers.

 

The company’s strategy highlights the profit opportunities that drug companies and investors see in an opioid epidemic that killed 91 Americans every day in 2015 and is growing worse. But some of its marketing tactics, and Mr. Price’s comments, ignore widely accepted science, as nearly 700 experts in the field wrote the health secretary in a letter.

 

Not a single study has been completed comparing Vivitrol with its less expensive competitors. Some studies have shown high dropout rates, or found that many participants returned to opioid use while taking Vivitrol or after going off it. In one study that the company used to secure the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Vivitrol for opioid addiction treatment, conducted with 250 patients in Russia, nearly half of those who got Vivitrol failed to stay abstinent over a six-month period, although they stayed abstinent and in treatment longer than those who got a placebo.

 

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