Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Which Opioid Addiction Treatment Reigns Supreme? Vivitrol or Suboxone?

Which Opioid Addiction Treatment Reigns Supreme? Vivitrol or Suboxone? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it
 

A long-awaited study has found that two of the main medications for treating opioid addiction are similarly effective, a finding likely to intensify the hard-fought competition between drugmakers seeking to dominate the rapidly expanding opioid treatment market.

 

The study, funded by the federal government, compared Vivitrol, which comes in a monthly shot and blocks the effects of opioids, and Suboxone, which is taken daily in strips that dissolve on the tongue and contains a relatively mild opioid that helps minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

 

Researchers found that 52 percent of those who started on Vivitrol relapsed during the 24-week study, compared with 56 percent of those who started on Suboxone.

 

But the study, conducted with 570 adults addicted mostly to heroin, also found a substantial hurdle for Vivitrol. Because the medication can be started only after a person is completely detoxed from opioids — a process that can take over a week — more than a quarter of the study participants assigned to Vivitrol dropped out before being able to take their first dose. Suboxone can be started shortly after withdrawal symptoms begin, and only six percent of those assigned to take that drug dropped out before taking an initial dose.

 

Drug manufacturers have been competing fiercely to develop and market medications to treat opioid addictions, which have propelled a steep increase in the number of drug deaths in the United States. Last year, 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, up 22 percent from the previous year.

 

There is significant money at stake. Under a law passed by Congress in 2016, the Trump administration is sending $1 billion to states to deal with the epidemic over the next two years, with directions to prioritize so-called medication assisted treatment. Mr. Trump’s opioid commission recently implored Congress to swiftly appropriate more money.

 

Suboxone, made by Indivior, is the older, cheaper, and much more widely studied and used of the two medications. The manufacturer of Vivitrol, Alkermes, has tried to catch up by marketing its drug as a cleaner alternative, emphasizing that Vivitrol is the only federally approved addiction medication that does not contain an opioid.

 

Vivitrol is also the most expensive addiction medication, with Medicaid paying about $500 per shot, according to Alkermes, and private insurers paying $1,000. Suboxone tends to cost a third to half as much.

 

Further Reading:

  • “Alkermes - Maker of Powerful Opioid Zohydro - Lobbies Hard for Its Expensive Treatment for Addiction!”; http://sco.lt/4u7u6L
Pharma Guy's insight:

Don't you just love it when a company that helped create the current opioid addiction crisis may profit from its treatment?

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Alkermes - Maker of Powerful Opioid Zohydro - Lobbies Hard for Its Expensive Treatment for Addiction!

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.

 

Further Reading:

 

Pharma Guy's insight:

Note the ad in the photo – it’s a “reminder ad,” which is forbidden by PhRMA for its members. Unfortunately, only reminder ads on TV are forbidden and only "signatories" of PhRMA's DTC Guidelines abide by the rules. Alkermes is a member of PhRMA and Richard Pops, Chairman and CEO of Alkermes, is on the board of directors of PhRMA! but Alkermes is NOT a signatory!

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K.I.R.M. God is Business " From Day One"'s curator insight, March 20, 1:34 PM

They created the problem then lobby for the government to pay for the treatment of being addicted to Opiod's and get it. Things that make a person wonder what's really taking place at tax payers expenses? Who's really behind it and Why?